Wildlife protection plans unveiled

The Government today unveiled targets to create half a million more acres of important habitat such as woodland and meadows in England over the next decade.







The strategy for protecting English wildlife, which forms part of global efforts to halt losses in nature, also includes making a quarter of the seas into protected areas and ensuring that a sixth of England's land and inland waters are managed to help wildlife.



Ministers say they want to see "better, bigger, more and joined" habitats for wildlife, protecting urban green space and using areas alongside roads and railways as "green corridors" as well as making management of the countryside greener.



Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said conserving green spaces in towns and cities, including derelict land, had a huge benefit for local people, and was backed by measures in the recent planning reforms which allowed for the designation of green areas to protect them.



She also said reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which pays subsidies to landowners for the land they farm, to make it more focused on the environment was key to delivering the "step change" needed in efforts to tackle wildlife loss.



But conservation groups including the RSPB, Buglife, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation warned there needed to be more focus in the plans on saving individual species ranging from the fen orchid to the cuckoo.



They warned that there were almost 1,000 species already listed as needing conservation action.



The biodiversity strategy commits to action on "priority species" - which range from bottle-nosed dolphins to skylarks - that will not be saved through the wider measures to improve the country's habitats.



It is England's answer to global pledges to halt the loss of nature by 2020, agreed last year in Nagoya, Japan, after similar targets for 2010 were missed.



The strategy comes after a mixed week of news for England's wildlife, with the revelations that otters have been rescued from the brink of extinction to return to every county followed by warnings over plummeting populations of summer migrant birds.



Mrs Spelman said: "Our wildlife is not only something that we should value because it's nice to look at.



"Nature underpins our very existence, giving us clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and healthy food to eat.



"This strategy sets out how we will stop the loss of species and habitats, so that this generation can be the first to leave our natural environment in a better state than they found it."

PA

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