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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what happened in the last month. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Ellie Ward. To subscribe please enter your email here.

August 2021

State of Nature win!

The Government has today tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill that would set a legal target to halt the decline in the abundance of wildlife by 2030. This replaces earlier weak ‘furthering’ wording which would have allowed the target to be met by only marginal efforts to recover nature. This improvement to the Environment Bill is a victory for the State of Nature campaign, and a significant win for wildlife! We are grateful to the many thousands of people and to the politicians from across the political spectrum who have supported the campaign for this meaningful State of Nature target.

Environmental Policy News

A hippo, a walrus and a beaver walk into a bar: Defra consults

Public engagement doesn’t stop for holidays and this summer has seen a number of new high-profile consultations from Defra. Despite an ongoing hold-up to implementing the Ivory Act 2018, designed to halt the UK trade of elephant ivory, the Government launched a new consultation in July on extending the act to other ivory bearing species, namely hippos, narwhals, walruses, killer whale and sperm whales. That consultation was joined this week by a further exercise asking for views on a proposed wider re-introduction of beavers into England, following the successful River Otter Beavers Re-Introduction Trial.

It could be suggested that these proposals, focused on iconic wild animals, are designed to attract positive headlines, rather than to form part of a coherent strategy to recover nature. Certainly, they must be accompanied by further less-glamorous measures, including sustained habitat protection and recovery, secured funding for nature restoration and an ambitious set of biodiversity targets, in order to make a meaningful difference. Even so, they do represent progress, will deliver positive change for the species concerned – and highlight the continued rise of nature recovery up the political agenda.

Is the Government about to row back on the Deposit Return Scheme?
A new Link report into the progress of the Government’s waste reforms has raised significant concerns about the Government’s plans to progress a new Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The DRS, which would place a small deposit charge on drinks containers to encourage their return, had been due to start in 2023 and was expected – according to remarks made by former Defra Secretary Michael Gove – to adopt an ‘all-in’ model, covering all drinks containers. However, the scheme has now been delayed to 2024, and a consultation earlier this year strongly suggested that the Government intends to opt for a scaled down model, covering only drink containers under 750ml in size and excluding those sold in multipacks.

Link’s report, ‘A wasted opportunity?’, was published this month by the Resources and Waste Working Group and highlighted that the scaled down option would lead to only 7.4 billion containters being recycled, compared to 23.7 billion under the all-in model. Given the high public and press interest in reducing waste and plastic pollution, can the Government really afford to backtrack so significantly on a key pledge? The Independent’s article on the Link report can be read here. Resources and Waste Group Chair Paula Chinn comments: ‘‘As we face the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, it’s essential that the government back the strongest possible scheme for tackling litter without delay’’.

Responsible wildlife tourism could boost UK coastal communities
With record numbers of Britons holidaying at the British seaside this year, members of the Link network have been highlighting the need to respect our marine wildlife.

The RSPCA has been working with local police forces and the Marine Management Organisation on ‘Operation Seabird’, a pioneering exercise designed to educate and inform holidaymakers about disturbing wildlife. A series of joint action days over the summer has seen experts and officers engage with boat operators, jet ski operators and the public to provide clear guidance on how to protect the marine wildlife in that area, especially the dolphins and seals that are particularly vulnerable to disturbance and collisions from fast craft.

Link’s own Marine Mammals Group have published their own report on the potential economic boost that responsible marine wildlife watching could provide. Britain’s seal populations, which include 95% of Europe’s grey seals, could be a powerful draw for tourists – with 71% of visitors to UK destinations citing a desire to watch wildlife as a motivator for their holiday. The report stresses that this potential can only developed if the seal populations are first adequately protected, and measures put in place to ensure that tourist activities respect marine wildlife. Careful and respectful work with nature could yield significant benefits for coastal communities, holiday makers and wildlife species alike.

Bulletin Board

Link blogs you may have missed:

Many people think that commercial whaling has been consigned to history; in fact, it is thriving
Mark Simmonds OBE, outgoing Chair of the Link Marine Mammals Group, outlines his thoughts on the the continuation of whaling around the world and the role of the International Whaling Commission.

Putting people in the picture: Organisational learnings from ‘access to the countryside for people of colour’ research project
Maddy Haughton Boakes, Campaigns Manager at CPRE The Countryside Charity, discusses the lack of diversity within the environment sector and the need to ensure the countryside is more welcoming.

Climate-smart fisheries can provide a win-win for fishers, the environment, livelihoods and wider society
The Marine Conservation Society's Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture Gareth Cunningham outlines how the fishing sector is both affected by and contributes to climate change and how UK governments can act to deliver world-leading policies for fisheries, reducing emissions from the sector.

Link roundtables on 30x30 and freshwater health

Link will be holding two roundtables in September, to launch two major new policy reports. The first, on ensuring that the Government's commitment to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 delivers, will take place on 9 September, you can register here. The second, setting out a 'how to’ strategy for bringing our freshwaters back to health will take place on 14 September, you can register here.

Environment Links UK Webinars

The four Links in the UK (Wildlife & Countryside Link, Scottish Environment Link, Wales Enviroment Link & Northern Ireland Environment Link) are holding their biennial meeting in September. The meeting will feature webinars on topics of interest (from ocean recovery to green jobs), which will be open to Link members. The webinars will run from 11.30am to 1.30 pm on 31 August and 2, 7 and 9 September - find out more and register here.

New survey on creating nature-positive places launched

The Broadway Initiative has launched a new survey to inform recommendations about how local government, business, planning and environmental professionals and the public can all work together to meet HM Government’s environmental goals. You can complete the survey here.

Highways England consults on road strategies

Highways England has launched the next stage of their consultation on the future of the road network. You can take part here.

Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter launched

The Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter was launched at London Climate Action Week in July with the support of world-leading institutions representing over 400,000 professionals and 300 member organisations. The Charter is designed to turn existing expertise and climate initiatives in the professional sector into action, by gathering and distributing resources where they are needed, across disciplines, and by convening strategic discussion amongst and between the professions. Contact to enquire and sign up.

Communicate: On the Road to COP15 and COP26 Conference

UK environmental communications professionals will be holding a conference on 14-15 Sept, including practical skills-based workshops, and targeted briefing sessions to bring attendees quickly up to speed with new developments in the field. You can sign up here.

Oxford-Cambridge Arc consultation event

MHCLG is now consulting on the recently-published draft Vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Spatial Framework and Scoping Report for the associated Sustainability Appraisal, deadline 12 October. As part of the consultation, MHCLG are running a virtual consultation event that will be focussed on the Sustainability Appraisal. The event will be held on Wednesday 22 September from 10am to 12pm. Please email Emma ( for more information and the meeting link.

Sector job vacancies:

A list of job opportunities across the Link network can be found here, including roles with Wildlife & Countryside Link, RSPB and RSPCA.

State of Nature: Daily Express Article

The Daily Express reported on efforts to secure a meaningful State of Nature target on 19.08.21

Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 60 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. You can learn more about Link’s policy work here.

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