Report on failure to halt wildlife decline is buried

A A A

A report showing that Britain is failing to halt the declines of many of its highest-priority wildlife species and habitats, from the red squirrel, the juniper and the common skate to chalk rivers and coastal salt marshes, was "sneaked out" this week by the Government with no publicity, environmental campaign groups said yesterday.

More than twice as many conservation priority species and habitats are declining as are increasing across the UK, the report says, yet to find that study is virtually impossible without special knowledge. It was posted on the website of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the Government's UK-wide wildlife advisers, on Thursday.

But it is buried deep in the site, there was no press release, and there is no reference to it or link to it on the website's front page. It is not even on the website of the relevant Government department, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The report – "The UK Biodiversity Action Plan: highlights from the 2008 reporting round" – was finished more than a year ago, and wildlife campaign groups have accused the previous Labour government of deliberately sitting on it, and the new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition Government of actively seeking to hide it. It concerns the progress – or lack of it – of the 500-plus UK species and habitats which have been the subject of Biodiversity Action Plans, or BAPs, set up since the Convention on Biological Diversity was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

The report shows that 24 per cent of the priority species are declining (88 species in total), as against 11 per cent which are improving. Typical continuing declines, besides red squirrels, plants such as juniper and fish such as the common skate, include the turtle dove, the twinflower and the brindled beauty moth. And 42 per cent of the priority habitats (19 habitats in total, including wildlife-rich upland chalk grassland and upland hay meadows) are in decline, as against 18 per cent which are improving.

"These results are so poor so that it comes as no surprise that they have been hidden away," Mark Avery, director of conservation for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said. "Can you imagine a report on the state of the nation's health, or economy, or education being ignored in the way that this report on the state of the nation's wildlife has been? It is vital that cuts in public spending don't harm the conservation of wildlife. We need to hear from the new government what measures it will take to reverse the declines."

Matt Shardlow, director of Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, said: "The handling of this report, sat on for almost a year then quietly slipped out without transparent supporting data, suggests the Government is ashamed its recent track record. There is now an urgent need for Government to re-commit to working with the public to save and indeed restore our wildlife."

Dr Jeremy Biggs, director of the charity Pond Conservation, said the report had been "sneaked out". He added: "Freshwaters in Britain, and especially England, are in a parlous state: 75 per cent of our rivers and streams break EU directive ecological standards, and 80 per cent of ponds are in poor condition, and have declined in quality over the past 10 years."

The JNCC said it was merely "hosting" the publication of the report on its website for the secretariat of the standing committee of the UK Biodiversity Partnership, who are civil servants in Defra. A spokesman for Defra said the findings in the report had already been made available, at the 2009 UK Biodiversity Partnership annual conference, and that environmental organisations had been "kept informed" of the development of the "highlights" report.

The news is not all bad: some rare, threatened or even formerly vanished species are now doing well. The once-extinct large blue butterfly has been reintroduced and is flourishing (mainly in Somerset), and once very scarce birds such as the stone curlew and the bittern are rising steadily in numbers. Also, the ladybird spider has been reintroduced into Dorset after a captive-breeding programme.

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution