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Following on from the recent Natural White Paper, Govtoday Editor, Scott Buckler, sat down with Paul Green Technical Advice and Designations Manager at Natural England to find out what they were doing to tackle wildlife loss and protect the natural environment within England

What current strategies are Natural England carrying out to tackle wildlife loss in England?

Natural England has a major role in looking after our most important wildlife sites including National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest - 96% of which are now in favourable or recovering condition. We are currently advising on the development of Marine Protected Areas to protect our diverse marine wildlife.
Our focus is just as much about creating networks of wildlife. Defra have recently published a new England Biodiversity Strategy and Natural Environment White Paper with landscape management very much to the fore. Natural England has a crucial role in ensuring that the actions and commitments are met.
We administer European funds to landowners in exchange for protecting wildlife, features and landscapes and these agri-environment schemes cover just under 70% of England’s countryside and can be targeted to support specific landscape needs.  This has been critical in helping farmland wildlife.  
We have funded a number of successful species recovery and habitat management programmes, pulling near extinct species like the bittern back from the brink. Local re-introductions have created a firm footing for species like the dormouse, ladybird spider and fen raft spider.

How has Natural England developed its wildlife protection systems taking into account adaptation against climate change?

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to our wildlife. Some species, especially those found at the edge of their range in the UK, are especially susceptible and could move further north or south; others may be unable to move and even become extinct. Managing the needs of wildlife at a landscape scale and creating ecological corridors to support species mobility are increasingly important aspects of our climate change adaptation strategies. Climate change adaptation principles, published by Defra provide a framework to enable conservationists to plan and make the right decisions for the future.  It is also crucial we have the right evidence and can monitor how and where change is happening.

Tell us more about the current consultation on laws protecting wildlife and natural environment?

Until recently, Natural England’s powers to enforce laws  protecting wildlife and the natural environment have been largely confined to issuing cautions or proceeding to full prosecutions. The lack of a middle ground has sometimes made it hard to take appropriate enforcement action in cases which do not justify a prosecution but which require more than a caution. Defra’s decision to enable Natural England to impose ‘civil sanctions’  will enable us to fine tune our response.  We have launched an eight-week public consultation to seek views on how these new powers should be used. Enforcement needs to be a last resort and the consultation will help ensure that it is applied consistently and proportionately to help protect  the natural environment. The consultation closes on the  30 September and details can be found on our website.

Given the economic situation we find ourselves in, how important is funding from the lottery and other charities?

Obviously it is vital and our natural environment depends on the fantastic work that charities do and the funding that organisations like BIG provides.  Natural England works closely in partnership with others and each organisation brings  something different  - funding, raising awareness through membership or community-led projects, practical work, expertise or land ownership.

How important is it to create natural habitats and protect wildlife, what implications can it have if wildlife are left un-protected?

Our Lost Life report identified nearly 500 animals and plants that have become extinct in England, mainly within the last two centuries.
We cannot take our wildlife for granted, we all lose when biodiversity declines. Every species has a role, and like rivets in an aeroplane, the overall structure of our environment is weakened each time a single species is lost.
Inappropriate management, environmental pollution and development pressure have all played a part in the erosion of England’s biodiversity. All of the major groups of flora and fauna have experienced major losses, with butterflies and other insects and many plant species being hit particularly hard.
There are real economic and social reasons for looking after nature too. There is a growing evidence base that demonstrates that increasing our contact with nature could save millions of pounds from NHS budgets. There are major economic benefits through things like tourism, water and air purification, flood protection and food production. Pollinating insects alone are worth £430million per year to British agriculture. These values have not always been fully appreciated or valued until recently. We literally could not survive without our wildlife.



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Written by Paul Green   
Monday, 12 September 2011 09:46
Last Updated on Monday, 12 September 2011 10:00

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