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07 Dec 2016

The laws of nature: saved!

Posted in Blog posts

The UK’s most important environmental laws — the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives — have been saved by an amazing campaign that has spanned the continent.

Today, the European Commission agreed not only to keep the Directives, but to make a plan to ensure that they’re properly enforced all across Europe.

The Directives protect some of the UK’s finest wildlife sites, including WWT centres. For example, the wonderful Severn Estuary at Slimbridge is protected by EU law as both a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area (SPA). Sites like these are absolutely vital for wildlife.

As part of the Flight of the Swans project, Sacha Dench saw just how much birds like the Bewick’s swan depend on treasure troves of natural space safeguarded by these Nature Directives.

Saving the Directives has been a huge public effort. Last year, over 520,000 people campaigned for the Birds and Habitats Directives to be upheld. That was the biggest ever response to an EU Commission consultation.

But making the case also depended on the thousands of volunteers and experts who have spent countless hours collecting the data that helped demonstrate the Directives’ importance.

It depended on the leadership of individuals and NGOs, who stood united on this essential issue.

So, we’d like to thank everyone who contributed.

Successes like this should give us all hope that when we speak up for nature we can achieve great things. This will be absolutely essential in the months to come: the Government is writing a new environment plan and we need to make sure it’s ambitious and legally-binding. The Brexit negotiations will need all our efforts to make sure that environmental standards aren’t only maintained but improved. Planned reform of farming payments will need real public support to make sure that farmers are supported for investing in our natural world.

There’s so much more to do to improve the state of nature.

But for now, at least, let’s celebrate: the laws of nature are safe.

Richard Benwell
Head of Government Affairs