DEFRA discussion paper on the Natural Environment White Paper:
Comments based on suggestions from the Somerset Wildlife Trust and our local experiences.
1) Which parts of the natural environment matter most to you?
It is very important that the Government takes action to protect, restore, and proactively ensure the recovery of our natural environment, for people and wildlife.
The Government should recognise the uniqueness of Somerset’s rich natural environment, and appreciate that it matters to all of us. A healthy, wildlife-rich natural environment benefits us all, and is irreplaceable.
A large scale network of high quality habitats will allow wildlife to thrive in our county in town and village, along hedgerow and verge and through fields and gardens. We must include our coastal areas and our wonderful hills for all to enjoy. By making space for nature, we will enable our natural world to become more resilient to future climate change.
2) How do you feel you benefit from the natural environment?
Wildlife-rich landscapes and seas support our society and economy and recreational activities. A healthy, bio diverse environment provides us with a range of natural, life-supporting services, such as crop pollination, food production, flood prevention, clean air and water.
By restoring natural processes we all benefit – such as flood protection, carbon absorption, crop pollination and water filtration, so they can operate to their full potential for people and wildlife. All are fundamental to our health, well-being and a successful local economy.
3) How do you think we could improve the natural environment?
I support the Wildlife Trusts strategy based on a Living Landscape approach to nature, which should act as guiding principles in the development of the Natural Environment White Paper.
A comprehensive strategic framework for the natural environment is required to secure the health of our natural environment.
We should protect and enlarge ‘core’ wildlife-rich areas – value and conserve existing protected places such as Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which lie at the heart of this new era for nature conservation. We should create more such areas which must not be allowed to be traded in or eroded.
We should put wildlife back on the map – map out priority areas for restoration on a landscape scale. Plan to create connections between core wildlife areas in the form of corridors and stepping stones, providing connectivity for wildlife across the landscape. Expand and buffer these areas and make the wider landscape more wildlife-friendly.
4) What would encourage you to get involved in protecting the natural environment?
People need access to nature on their doorstep: high quality natural spaces should be available in town and country to encourage access to, and action for, the natural environment.
Ensure there is wildlife everywhere and support educational initiatives to inspire every community to develop local solutions to the particular challenges for restoring nature in their area.
The Trusts are well placed to generate a new type of partnership to act together with central and local government, agencies, the private sector and voluntary bodies to inspire and enable cross-boundary co-operation in planning and delivering a new vision for nature.
Chair of the Heart of the Levels Area Group of the Somerset Wildlife Trust