Why a new Environment Act is a once in a lifetime opportunity in post Brexit Britain

Badger (c) Elliott Neep

Badger (c) Elliott Neep - Credit: Elliott Neep

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Clea Grady explains why a new Environment Act is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Hedgehog (c) Tom Marshall

Hedgehog (c) Tom Marshall - Credit: Tom Marshall

Britain stands on the brink of its biggest ever shake up of environmental rules. As the country prepares to leave the EU, we will say goodbye to many laws and regulations and Britain will have to generate a new Environment Act for the first time in over 20 years. However this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only uphold current protection measures, but to improve on them. Something that is desperately needed.

Our wildlife is in trouble. From rivers and woodlands, to birds and flowers, our natural world is struggling. Over half of the species assessed in the State of Nature report (2013) have suffered since the 1970s, and many of our most-loved animals are in serious decline. Some of the greatest losses include: barn owls, a 66% decline since the 1930s; common frogs, a 90% decline since the 1990s; basking sharks, a 95% decline in British waters since the 1950s, and hedgehogs, who have experienced a devastating 97% decline since the 1950s.

These losses have occurred steadily and unceasingly, and each generation now expects less and less from their natural environment (for they see less and less and accept that as normal). Many of today’s teenagers have never seen a hedgehog, for example, except as a photo on their phone screen. This is not the legacy we want to leave behind.

Wildlife needs us more than ever and we can make a difference. A new and ambitious Environment Act can help to reverse the trend of missing wildlife and set out a plan for nature’s recovery. The Wildlife Trust and many other conservation organisations (see greeneruk.org) have worked resolutely to create a set of proposals for this much-needed legislation. Critically, we need the Environment Act to give us:

Willow tit (c) Harry Hogg

Willow tit (c) Harry Hogg - Credit: Harry Hogg

Nature Targets: legal targets for nature’s recovery that politicians must ultimately achieve and regularly report on progress towards for example safer air to breathe in our cities.

A Nature Recovery Network: a joined-up network of habitats that provide enough space for wildlife to recover and for people to thrive.

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Nature Watchdog: an independent body to help people challenge bad decisions made by Government and councils, which have a negative impact on wildlife and our natural environment.

Up until now, legislation has only enabled us to protect pockets of land but stronger and more progressive laws will enable us to actually restore wildlife.

Kingfisher (c) Martin Roper

Kingfisher (c) Martin Roper - Credit: Martin Roper

The proposals for a new Environment Act are central to our campaign for ‘A Wilder Future’. This campaign sees each of the 46 Wildlife Trusts embark on their own regional push (for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust it’s ‘A Wilder Yorkshire’) and we are asking our members and the public to support us. By talking to your MP you can help them to understand the part they have to play in stopping the loss of wildlife and bringing about more nature in people’s lives.

Via ywt.org.uk you can contact your local MP directly and help them to understand the important part they have to play in both stopping the loss of wildlife and bringing more nature into our lives. It is important politicians understand why nature matters to their constituents and champion the positive impact it has on all our lives.

If you meet your MP, consider telling them about your local wild spaces and how or why they give you joy and a sense of wellbeing. MPs want to know what you care about and they also have a duty to listen – their job is to represent you in Parliament after all. You will find advice, tips and information about meeting your MP and the Environment Act on Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s website – it’s there for the Yorkshire public to refer to whenever they need. Together we can make a difference begin to restore our beautiful wildlife.

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