On Monday the Environmental Audit Committee reported on its inquiry into Halting Biodiversity Loss. The Committee concluded that the Government is unlikely to meet its 2010 target to halt the decline in wildlife. We welcome the recognition that more concerted action must be taken across Government to ensure that those sanctuaries hosting wildlife are adequately protected and where possible expanded.
Ancient woodland is our equivalent of the rainforest and an irreplaceable resource for a diverse array of species crucial to conservation. Yet despite its importance as a habitat we collated evidence showing that 100 square miles of ancient woodland has come under threat from destruction or degradation; an area equivalent to the size of Birmingham. We have launched the WoodWatch campaign to help local people contest the threat to their ancient woodland. However, it is also vital that the Government demonstrates leadership by ensuring that planning policies are properly enforced to protect all ancient woodland from development.
The report went on to conclude that preventing loss must not be the end-point for conservation strategies; instead Government should be more ambitious and enable wildlife to grow in the future. We envisage this happening through the championing of wildlife across Government – not just within Defra. This could translate into policies promoting green infrastructure in new development and guaranteeing that the planning system is capable of protecting and enhancing the natural environment.
An healthy ecosystem offers us all services that sustain our very existence. The Committee were correct to point out that more effort is needed to halt loss in the natural world. Woodland creation is a vital mechanism in returning wildlife onto a sustainable footing, and by creating more open green spaces people can access the associated mental and physical health benefits. In recognition of the role woodland has in supporting the ecosystem on which we are all dependent there should be a renewed effort to protect, restore and expand our wooded heritage.