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Nature under threat

Last modified: 15 December 2014

Kids playing at Middleton Lakes

Image: Andy Hay

RSPB NI believes that nature in Northern Ireland is under threat from deep and broad budget cuts. You can join us in standing up to save nature by taking a couple of minutes to feed into the public consultation to protect our environment.

The latest budget allocations demonstrate that the natural environment is not seen as a government priority. Disproportionate cuts to the Department of the Environment (DoE) budget (11.1% of its spend) means that ‘front-line’ services and projects which protect and enhance the places and wildlife we hold dear, will be lost.

A short-sighted approach to funding the natural environment will mean that many of the benefits of a clean thriving environment could be lost. We rely on our environment for so many things, including clean water and air, carbon storage, flood protection and access to green spaces - which helps our physical and mental well-being. We often hear people say that the economy is the priority, but do not recognise that the environment is the economy.

The proposed cuts to the DoE budget will have a major impact:

  • Important environmental outcomes could be threatened due to cuts to a significant proportion of the DoE workforce
  • The Natural Heritage Grant to many environmental NGOs will be cut, meaning that many of the projects which directly provide important environmental outcomes will cease
  • Northern Ireland could leave itself open to large fines if it can no longer effectively meet EU obligations and Directives.

What would this mean for RSPB?

Threatened species become extinct and habitats are lost

RSPB NI manages 2,636 ha of land as nature reserves in Northern Ireland. They support important populations of threatened species such as the chough, curlew, Irish lady’s tresses orchid, Irish whitebeam and red squirrel. 

Funding for this work is provided by the NIEA through the Natural Heritage Grant Programme and is threatened by cuts.

Our out of classroom learning programme ends

Currently the RSPB engages with approximately 15,000 pupils and 400 trainee teachers, giving young people valuable opportunities to learn about the natural world. This programme is now under threat.

Are there solutions?

Whilst the situation is perilous, the RSPB does believe that there are some solutions: 

Challenge Fund/Carrier Bag Levy: We believe that there is an onus on the Department to find innovative and creative ways to reallocate the Carrier Bag Levy money (£4.25m) to ensure that it is funding priority work, including the Natural Heritage Fund.

Remaining balance of budget: We believe that the £1.2m balance of budget remaining should re-directed to fund the programmes in the current grants programme that deliver DoE targets, including meeting EU Directives and thus reducing the risk of infraction, and have the ability to lever in additional funds (creating a multiplier effect).

Reallocation of Treasury funds: The RSPB understands that following the recent Autumn Statement by George Osborne, an extra £67 million is now available to the NI Executive to spend. We recommend that the Department of the Environment bids for a proportion of this funding, to plug the gap from the loss of the Natural Heritage Fund.

What you can do

The draft budget consultations remain open until 29 December 2014

Make your voice heard by sending a short response to the DoE. Please consider telling the DoE of your concerns for the natural environment, your concerns for what this could mean for the RSPB’s work, and the potential solutions. Please feel free to use some of the points set out above. You can write to the address below or email doe.budgetconsultation@doeni.gov.uk

Anthony Carleton
Director of Finance and Business Planning
Room 6-15
Clarence Court
10-18 Adelaide Street
BELFAST
BT2 8GB

How you can help

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