As part of a post-Brexit strategy and an attempt to protect Britain’s ever-dwindling biodiversity, nature recovery schemes are being introduced by the government, however, eco and environmental campaigners are not convinced.
The government plans to pay farmers in England with taxpayers money to rewild land in their management as part of a massive nature recovery effort. The government hopes changes to vast quantities of land will increase habitats for wildlife and conserved species. It is hoped that these plans will also restore health to England’s many rivers and streams
10-15 pilot projects are already underway, focusing on attracting birds to an area of up to 10,000 hectares in the first two-year phase of these projects. In the future, these pilot projects could facilitate full rewilding or other focused projects targeting specific species or habitat recovery such as sand lizards and water voles which are amongst some of the most threatened species in England.
Exactly how much funding is being dedicated to these efforts has not been disclosed as final decisions on strategies rollout won’t be made until this Summer. Estimates of this figure, however, can be expected to reach £700m to £800m a year by 2028. The British government hopes to extend this recovery strategy to up to 300,000 hectares of England by 2042.
Small scale recovery plans are also underway, with ministers offering money to farmers for planting more trees, restoring peatlands or wetlands and leaving space for wildlife habitats. Estimates for these payments are expected to be around £800 million a year by 2028.
Some Campaigners are sceptical whether these plans will be enough to reach the governments aim to stop the loss of wild species by 2030 alongside their pledge to tackle the climate crisis. Organisations such as RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts say the details of how well the recovery schemes would work was “lacking.”
The Wildlife Trusts chief executive, Craig Bennett, said –
“The real test of this agricultural transition is not whether it is a little bit better or moderately better than what came before, but whether it will be enough to deliver on [the government’s targets]. Anything less than that means that this historic opportunity will have been wasted. While we’re hearing the right noises from the government, the devil will be in the detail and the detail is still not published nearly six years after the EU referendum.”
Campaigners have more reasons to be sceptical following the governments recent decision to update guidance on general shooting licences, allowing wild birds to be shot and killed in order to protect game birds bred for shooting in England.
“If this update to the livestock general licence goes beyond a reclassification of terminology and implies that it will lead to an increase in the killing of wild birds to protect game bird interests, then given the nature and climate emergency we find ourselves in, this would be a massive backward step for nature conservation in this country.”
These changes follow comments from a Defra spokesperson who asked for clarity on whether game birds counted as livestock. New language in the guidance states that wild birds can now be shot to protect birds that are dependent on humans for their food and shelter.