New polling shows that people want restoring wildlife to be the priority for England's National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Landscape showing Haweswater Resevoir during early morning golden hour. Sunlight hits the tops of hills above the beautiful tree-lined reservoir.

  • New report shows people see restoring nature as the number one priority for England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)
  • Polling shows that people are happy to see changes in the way these landscapes look and are managed to achieve this
  • People are concerned that wildlife is not doing better inside National Parks and AONBs than it is outside them and want to see declines reversed

People see nature restoration as the number one priority for England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) according to new polling commissioned by the RSPB.

The results are presented in a report published today called “Natural Parks?”. A survey of adults in England found that more than two thirds (68%) of respondents chose increasing wildlife as their top priority for National Parks and AONBs, far more than other objectives such as promoting cultural heritage. People who live inside National Parks and AONBs feel even more strongly. Three quarters (75%) of them chose increasing wildlife as their number one priority.

There are 44 protected landscapes – National Parks and AONBs – in England, such as the Peak and Lake Districts, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight. They cover a quarter of the country, but account for a much greater proportion of the places that are important habitats for wildlife and for storing carbon.

Alice Hardiman, head of policy for RSPB England said “The polling shows the huge public demand for restoring nature in England’s National Parks and AONBs. This is what people from across England want these landscapes to prioritise above all else. The people who live inside these places want this even more. This sends a clear message to the Government as it consults on the future of our National Parks and AONBs.”

The RSPB, working with the water company United Utilities, is showing how nature can be revived in Wild Haweswater in the Lake District National Park, while respecting farming traditions. From red squirrels to salmon, pied flycatchers and rare lichens, nature is returning to this rugged landscape. This shows what is possible, but it is in sharp contrast with much of the rest of the National Park. Wildlife has been pushed to the margins of the Park, or – like England’s last pair of Golden Eagles – lost altogether, unable to survive amongst a sea of intensive land management.

The survey also found that:

  • Two thirds of people (66%) thought that wildlife should be faring better inside National Parks and AONBs than it is outside them and 85% were concerned to find that this wasn’t the case.
  • Almost all respondents (90%) said it was important to them that the abundance of wildlife in National Parks and AONBs is increased. This rose to 96% amongst those who live inside these landscapes.
  • 81% were supportive of doing things to achieve this that would change the way these landscapes look such as nature friendly farming practices that would restore wildflower meadows, reduce the number of grazing animals and increasing the number of broadleaf trees.
  • Only 7% of people did not want land management that is harming nature in National Parks and AONBs to change.
  • 80% would like the people who sit on the boards that lead National Parks and AONBs to be recruited through open competition, based on their expertise. Even more (83%) want to see these boards have a balance of expertise across landscapes’ objectives. There was even more support for this amongst people living inside these places. This is significant because an independent, expert review for the Government recommended this in 2019 but the Government not yet committed to this reform.

Alice Hardiman concluded “People rightly expect these landscapes to be thrumming with life and are alarmed when they find out that’s often not the case. The polling shows that they do not want these places to be preserved as they are today, in their nature-depleted state. They want them brought back to life.

“Many National Park and AONB teams are working hard to achieve this, but the Government has not given them what they need. The onus is on the Government to urgently change that.

“The Government’s consultation is an opportunity for all of us to demand more nature-rich National Parks and AONBs, so that we can all experience the wonder of thriving wildlife. Opportunities for transformative changes to these landscapes don’t come around often – we can’t afford to miss this chance.”

Read the report by clicking here

Tagged with: