The UK’s 25-year plan for nature – all eyes on wildlife

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The 25-year plan – a collective vision for the future of the UK’s natural environment

The UK government’s idea for a 25-year plan for nature offers us a chance to think about what we want the natural world to look like in 25 years’ time. Last night, I was at an event where Rory Stewart MP, in charge of developing this plan, said the government would soon be inviting stakeholder feedback. Another speaker, Findlay Wilde, reminded us that the natural environment has been kept waiting for some time before getting the attention that it deserves.

It’s important that we all pause to think about the natural world in the UK 25 years from now and what it will look like if the current biodiversity decline continues.

The preparation for the UK’s 25 year plan for nature needs to be visionary. It is a chance to think positively about wildlife protection and restoration, and a chance to imagine a wildlife-rich natural world in the future. We now need to think about what needs to happen between now and then to ensure that vision can be realised. Business as usual just will not do.

Recently, we asked you to tell us about current and emerging threats to biodiversity across Europe. We are in the process of going through hundreds of informed and fascinating insights from a range of wildlife professionals and enthusiasts. Some of the concerns raised in responses from other countries will be relevant to the UK context too, and we will reflect on that as we think how to get from where we are today to a thriving natural environment in the UK 25 years from now.

25 years into the future, the world will have changed and many of the current pressures on the natural world magnified. However, there are also opportunities for wildlife, emerging now, which could be the start of some positive trends.

Reintroductions and ecosystem appreciation

The recently released Red List of Ecosystems from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) emphasised the importance of looking at the bigger picture, and not seeing species and habitats in isolation. This is certainly something we advocate at ClientEarth and hope will be adopted more widely in the future.

Reintroduction programmes can bring back native species, help restore weakened ecosystems and bring damaged land back to health. This would require and promote an ecosystems-based approach to understanding nature. By understanding how different elements of an ecosystem interact – from organisms in the soil to the largest predators – we can concentrate on conservation efforts that have the most effect.

It’s not just endangered ecosystems that the IUCN is documenting. Its even more recent Green List of Protected Areas offers a chance to celebrate protected areas which we hope will become increasingly important and valued over the next 25 years.

Getting close to nature

These protected areas not only allocate places where nature can thrive, but also give people the chance to escape to and interact with wild nature.

It’s not only wilderness that brings benefits. Natural spaces within cities and towns have proven benefits for health and wellbeing. A vision for 25 years into the future should be one that involves everyone having access to an outside space.

Closing the gaps

In order to make a long-term vision for nature work, any plan will have to look beyond seeing the environment as burdensome to protect. Better understanding and appreciating the services that nature provides for free means it won’t be taken for granted. The Woodland Trust put it well when they said that the plan for nature should work with the plan for food and farming to ensure that agriculture, industry and nature are all thriving.

Next steps?

The development of a 25-year plan for UK nature is a great chance to reverse biodiversity decline in the UK. However, if the plan is to work, it needs to be based on people’s vision for nature.

We’re glad that Mr Stewart suggested that the conversation will open up to thinking outside the corridors of Westminster. This conversation should start now, so that over the next 25 years, we can come up with a plan that really does take us towards our vision.

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