Our Avon region stretches from the Severn estuary in the east to the Cotswold hills in the west, from Gloucestershire woodland and meadows in the north to the Mendips hills in the south. A rich and varied landscape, it includes ancient woodlands and wildflower-rich limestone grassland, while three percent of the nation’s wetlands are in the North Somerset levels and moors. Although these landscapes provide shelter for wild plants and animals, they are fragmented. Wildlife needs a network of connecting green corridors otherwise it is stranded and shrinks ever further.
Sparrows, hedgehogs, bees and butterflies; these once-common creatures are fast disappearing. A joined-up network of wildlife-friendly spaces would bring back their homes and food, restoring water quality and reviving green spaces in our cities.
Along with The Wildlife Trusts, our nationwide movement of 46 wildlife trusts, we are calling on government to create a Nature Recovery Network. Here in Avon, we are reaching out to local authorities and communities, politicians and businesses to play their part connecting hundreds of wild landscapes.
The first step is to map the existing network of wild local places. This is vital for guiding future decisions on housing and development, farming and land management. It identifies where wildlife is abundant or scarce, where it should be in future, and the areas where the greatest benefits can be achieved for both wildlife and people. Led by the West of England Nature Partnership (of which Avon Wildlife Trust is a key partner), local mapping is well underway.
In addition, our national campaign is pressing for a strong Environment Act. We are a nation of nature lovers yet never has nature in this country been more at risk. Against a backdrop of political uncertainty, we need the government to deliver effective legislation, as laid out in its 25-year Environment Plan.
As Sir David Attenborough says: “For wildlife to recover and thrive, parks, housing estates, farms and city centres must be wildlife-friendly: a network giving wildlife freedom to move around. This can be achieved with a strong Environment Act.”
Most of the UK’s current environmental protections stem from EU law. What will happen after Brexit? Greener UK is a new coalition of 13 nature charities, including The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and National Trust, formed to lobby for robust replacement laws. Greener UK believes that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the natural environment.
The first part of the government’s draft Environment Bill, published before Christmas, sets out plans for a new environmental watchdog - the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) - to replace the current system. Disappointingly, it is a watchdog without legal teeth. The draft bill also needs legally-binding targets for mapping wildlife, reducing flooding and improving clean air in cities. We will be lobbying for the second part of the bill to deliver bold legislation equal to the nature challenge we all face. By safeguarding nature, we safeguard ourselves.
If you want to help nature recover and thrive, please visit https://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/naturerecovery