Now is the time to leave a lasting legacy for nature

Friends of the Dales and 47 other environmental and recreation organisations have signed a letter prepared by our colleagues at Campaign for National Parks, calling on the Government to accept amendments to the Levelling Up Bill for greater nature protection in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England.

This latest call comes after new figures show that some areas of National Parks in England are in a worse state for nature than the national average, with only a quarter of SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) in a ‘favourable condition’, compared to a national average of 38%. National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty cover 25% of England and include more than half of the country’s most important nature sites. The letter makes clear that without the legal reforms requested, the country will fail to not only meet its nature goals, but its commitments on net zero and halt and reverse the decline in the abundance of species.

Despite the legislative amendments proposed by the Government earlier in the year, and the Glover Review being well over-due for implementation, ministers still have not taken the opportunity to adopt the amendments to the Levelling Up Bill. The 47 environmental and recreation organisations, led by Campaign for National Parks and Wildlife and Countryside Link, including the RSPB and Wildlife Trust, have written to Rishi Sunak, calling on him to take a step forward for nature at home while the UK makes the case for an ambitious global approach at COP15 this week. Other signatories along with ourselves include Greenpeace, YHA, Woodland Trust, National Trust, Cycling UK, Muslim Hikers and Mosaic Outdoors.

 Commenting, Dr Rose O’Neill, Chief Executive, Campaign for National Parks, said:

“National Parks are the lungs of this country, an important home for wildlife and an inspirational place for us all to enjoy. But the fact that the majority of nature sites are failing shows that they need a step change in powers and resources to drive nature recovery. If the Government is serious about nature, now is the time to act on its own proposals set out earlier this year.

“Later this month sees the 73rd anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, which created the first of our National Parks. By failing to take action at this crucial moment, the government risks betraying the legacy and spirit of these precious landscapes”.

Kate Jennings, Head of Site Conservation Policy, RSPB, said:

“The Government has rightly recognised that its commitment on the global stage to protect 30% of England’s land cannot be achieved without our National Parks and AONBs, but that without changes to their purposes, level of protection and management those landscapes cannot contribute towards that objective.  Right now the Government has the perfect opportunity to fix that and to show leadership in matching bold rhetoric with meaningful change.”

Photo: Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve and SSSI by Ann Shadrake