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Support our call for effective environmental management in Wales

Moorland landscape, Wales

Image: Andy Hay

Mae fersiwn iaith Gymraeg ar gael.

On 30 January the Welsh Government published a Green Paper, Sustaining a Living Wales, setting out a new approach to managing the environment and natural resources. The Green Paper paves the way for environmental legislation expected by 2014/15.

The central proposal is to move to an ’ecosystems approach’ to managing the environment and natural resources in Wales. This involves greater integration of the management of land, water and living resources, which if done properly can promote nature conservation and encourage the sustainable use of our natural resources.

The central aim of any plan for the natural environment must be to meet the new global target to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2020. While RSPB Cymru welcomes the scale of this ambition, we are concerned that the Green Paper focuses disproportionally on managing how natural resources are used and the impacts of human activities – with the emphasis on making things simpler for developers and those who require permits or licences for their activities.

We are particularly concerned that the paper is virtually silent when it comes to plans for how the Welsh Government will improve the delivery of nature conservation in order to halt and reverse the declines in Wales’ biodiversity – something that is fundamental if we are to see the restoration of healthy, resilient ecosystems.

We will be responding to the consultation, but our voice will be stronger if our members and supporters respond too. Please help us by responding today and calling on the Welsh Government to give nature conservation the priority it deserves. They have a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver an Environment Act that truly protects and restores biodiversity in Wales.

You may like to include one of the following points in your response:

  • Protected sites must be retained and improved to ensure that important wildlife sites are protected for future generations to enjoy.

Although there aren’t specific proposals, the Green Paper does give some worrying hints that the Welsh Government wishes to make changes to the bedrock of the nature conservation framework – the protected sites that represent the jewels in the crown of Wales’ natural environment. In particular, the future of our nationally important wildlife sites – Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and sites of European importance, are put into question. These are fundamental to healthy ecosystems throughout Wales.

The RSPB will strongly oppose any move to downgrade the protection afforded our best sites for wildlife. We will continue to call for the existing suite of protected sites to be extended to achieve an ecologically coherent network, capable of supporting biodiversity throughout the countryside and our seas.

  • Ensure that species and habitats are given the support they require to survive and recover in Wales.

As well as protected sites, action is needed to support all species and habitats, but particularly those that are under pressure. This has been recognised through the Wales Biodiversity Action Plan but if these species are to survive and recover in Wales, land managers, developers and regulators, not just conservation bodies, will have to do their bit.

  • Include the recognition that the natural environment is worth saving irrespective of whether the benefits to us are obvious or can be measured financially.

The Green Paper emphasises the value of ’ecosystem services’ – those benefits that people gain from the natural environment, e.g. food, clean water, climate regulation, etc. One of its aims is to make sure that the value of these services is better recognised in policy and regulatory decisions in Wales, which we welcome.

However, focusing solely on ecosystem services, and the utilitarian value of nature, might suggest there is no case for protecting some species. For example, if we can’t find an obvious ’use’ for lapwings or curlews or shrill carder bees or spreading bellflowers, then how do we justify their continued protection? The Green Paper only makes one reference to the intrinsic value of nature – this must be strengthened to better reflect the right of other species to exist and our obligation to protect them.

  • The Welsh Government is also consulting on the new Body that will oversee this new approach to Wales’ natural resources. This will be created by amalgamating the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency. The RSPB is calling on the Welsh Government to ensure that the new body is a champion for nature conservation.

When writing your letter please also take the opportunity to highlight why you love Welsh wildlife and the environment.

Where do I need to send my email or letter?

You can respond to the consultation by emailing the Welsh Government at LivingWales@wales.gsi.gov.uk and using the subject line ‘Response to Sustaining a Living Wales’. Alternatively you can write to them at: Response to Sustaining a Living Wales, Nature Conservation and Biodiversity Branch, Welsh Government, Rhodfa Padarn, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3UR.

Please send copies of your submissions to: Jonathan Cryer at jonathan.cryer@rspb.org.uk or RSPB Cymru, Sutherland House, Castlebridge, Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF11 9AB. This will help us to monitor the success of the campaign.

Thank you for your ongoing support for our work in Wales.