Campaigns, Conservation, Endangered Species, environment, EU, Politics

Nature’s hidden treasures face their biggest threat yet

Whether we like it or not, much of our wondrous and unique nature in the UK depends almost entirely on the EU. Yet this protection and inspiration may soon be ripped away, leaving all creatures great and small virtually defenceless. But we can all fight to stop that happening.

Falmouth and Helford SAC. Probably my favourite place in the world and a place of many hidden biodiversity treasures.
Falmouth and Helford SAC. My favourite place in all the world and a place of many hidden biodiversity treasures. (Photo Credit: Blighted Star)

The UK is cherished for its greenery, hedges and rolling countryside. David Cameron has even cited it as the most beautiful country in the world (of a land that is mostly green wet desert this is perhaps stretching it a tad). Yet many of the things that really do make our island beautiful and fantastical are barely cherished. Our nature actually features low on the government’s list of things that actually matter and are worth treasuring. This is showcased by the fact it is our government (amongst a few others) pushing for the removal of the last vestiges of protection.

The protection we do have for our endangered wildlife and habitats in the UK comes from the EU in what are known collectively as the Nature Directives. These include the Birds Directive  and the Habitats Directive. Our government has not opted to set up similar legislation that would prize and set out to protect our most precious biodiversity. Which is not surprising as it now sees this protection as nothing more than a barrier to their addiction for development.

The Habitats Directive was implemented in the 1990s and it provides protection for important habitats, such as woodland and underwater ecosystems, and threatened species, such as mammals, plants and invertebrates. The Birds Directive was adopted in the 1970s and provides protection for all wild native birds. This legislation allows us to protect species and habitats that are at risk as well as providing a framework of protected areas known as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds. These seek to manage and protect uniquely special areas that are filled with the habitats and species listed in the annexes of the Directives. As well as being reactive, protecting biodiversity that has been lost elsewhere, it is very proactive. Natura 2000 is a project introduced because of these laws and it works to research, restore and reintroduce. Through this project the EU grants us money to help nature. Protection for the listed species, protected areas and project funding has meant these laws have achieved so much. In a world of environmental decline, Europe is one place where we have seen some massive gains. Again, why is the EU seen to be such a bad thing? (Yes it has its faults but doesn’t everything?)

The stunning Isles of Scilly are also an SAC, filled with seals, rare birds and wildflowers.
The stunning Isles of Scilly are also an SAC, filled with seals, underwater biodiveristy, rare birds and wildflowers. (Photo Credit: Blighted Star)

So we really do need the EU for the protection of our natural treasures. Without the protection we have it is likely our country would have taken far less action to protect them than it has (even so that could be much better). Despite this protection and much of the good work these laws have already achieved, the EU Commission are doing a ‘regulatory fitness check’ (REFIT) of these laws to see if they work and are still relevant. As a result they may decide they need changing or removing. This is a real risk for nature as the European agenda is now pushing for development due to countries like the UK. Whilst these laws are not perfect (they could be implemented more effectively)  it’s so important to keep them. And we have a chance to stand up and call for their protection. Please take part in what is possibly the biggest joint campaign to take place by environmental NGOs. It is time to show that we really do care about wildlife and habitats, and every person who cares counts.

A hundred NGOs have joined together to offer a simple tool that allows us to submit their set response to the EU Commission’s public consultation questionnaire. It only takes a couple of minutes to add your name and address, so please take part here:

If you know a bit about the laws and want to contribute your own answers to the consultation, you can here:

If you would just like to add your own personal thoughts about why nature should be protected, why it matters to you and why the laws should stay, you can here:  

The consultation closes on 26th July at midnight so please join the thousands of others who have stood up for nature while you still can. Nature may be at the bottom of our government’s priority list but we can show it is at the top of ours.

Find out more with hashtag #DefendNature

Red Squirrels are a protected species under the Habitats Directive

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