Five wins for wildlife we want to see in 2016

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Porpoises, bees, ancient woodland – how we’re supporting Europe’s natural treasures in 2016

It’s going to be a big year for the rules which protect Europe’s nature. Core EU laws are being discussed, and new policies and projects impacting wildlife are being debated at national and local level. We asked the ClientEarth wildlife team what they’d like to see happen in 2016.

Protect Europe’s porpoises

The UK is home to 90% of the European population of harbour porpoises. They’re shy creatures and many human activities affect their feeding and breeding habits.

The UK government has started 2016 with a consultation on five proposed Marine Protected Areas for harbour porpoises which is great news – these protected areas are required under EU law and the European Commission told them to do it some time ago. But the Scottish government has delayed kicking off the process on at least three further sites – and we’re having trouble seeing why.

We’d like to see Scotland start the consultation without further delay and put firm lines around protected sites for porpoises.

Keep Europe’s ancient forest – don’t log it

Poland’s Białowieża forest is one of Europe’s oldest woodlands. It contains an astonishing breadth of biodiversity, including around 250 species of birds. It’s a beautiful example of Europe’s natural wealth.

It’s also a Natura 2000 site, designed to defend the flora and fauna that make up its ecosystem.

But the Polish government is considering amending Białowieża’s Forest Management Plan. As it stands, the new plan would allow five times more logging than originally permitted for the period from 2012 to 2021.

We want to see Białowieża’s Forest Management Plan take into account what Natura 2000 sets out to achieve – protecting precious areas and the rare creatures and plants within them.

Keep ban on neonicotinoids to save bees

Three neonicotinoid pesticides were declared harmful to bees and banned by the EU in 2013.

But now the EU is reviewing the ban. Any waver in conviction would be extremely bad news for European bees. The US has recently confirmed that one of these chemicals, imidacloprid, is harmful for bees, and is investigating the other two. We can only hope the EU listens to the latest US evidence and keeps the ban firmly in place.

Meanwhile, springtime will likely bring a swathe of applications for permission to ignore the ban as farmers prepare to sow. Toxics Lawyer Tess Crean says: “The arguments against the ban do not make sense. The Commission must stay strong in the face of opposition.”

Reverse species loss

The UK is working to the deadline of the Biodiversity Strategy 2020, aiming to reverse species loss. The legal framework already provides scope for rewilding and there have been successful reintroductions in Europe, and here in the UK.

Currently, when it comes to reintroducing larger mammals like lynx or wolves, rewilding is still seen as a controversial topic in some circles. But it’s becoming widely accepted that careful, scientifically informed reintroduction of missing elements offers a chance to restore natural processes to ecosystems.

Reinforce the wider legal landscape

Through last year we were campaigning to protect the Nature Directives. We’ll be watching for the outcome of the EU’s reviews this year.

While the EU continues to work towards the Biodiversity 2020 goals, many countries ended 2015 calling for better implementation of laws central to achieving these goals. In the UK, Defra is putting together a 25 year plan for the UK’s nature.

A major development is the drafting of a Wildlife Bill, which may reach Parliament by the end of this year.

Of course, these big projects which propose an overhaul of the status quo don’t come without a share of worries as well as opportunities. So what would we like to see?

“We want to see a Bill that does not weaken wildlife protection for vulnerable species and habitats, like songbirds, rare woodland species and marine wildlife,” says Wildlife Lawyer Catherine Weller. “We also see space to make the reintroduction of key species more feasible.”

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