Back to blog listings


We need to stand up for wildlife to ensure legal protection is not lost

Posted: Friday 24th June 2016 by HarryBarton

River Dart, Dartmoor by Nigel HicksRiver Dart, Dartmoor by Nigel Hicks

Following the vote to leave the European Union, DWT Chief Executive Harry Barton considers the struggles ahead, in the light of uncertainty over environmental protections

Yesterday I stood in the warm sunshine on Bursdon Moor in Hartland, one of the largest tracts of rare Culm grassland. A glorious view opened up across the sea to Lundy, one of our most important marine nature reserves. Dartmoor and Exmoor shimmered in the distance, swallows ducked and dived and skylarks sang overhead. For someone who spends far too much time in an office, it was a moment to savour.

This morning as I woke up to the news of the Brexit vote, I was struck by the sudden dark cloud of uncertainty that now hangs over so much of what we value in the natural world. In a campaign dominated by bluster and vague promises, politicians from both sides largely ignored the protection of the natural environment or the implications for its future security.

What does the vote mean for wildlife?

Amongst all the confusion there are some stark facts though. Three crucial pieces of legislation will cease to apply when we leave the EU. These are the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the Bathing Water Directive.

The Habitats Directive protects about a thousand rare species of plant and animals across Europe and over eight million hectares of land and surrounding seas in the UK: places like Plymouth Sound and Dartmoor, Braunton Burrows and the East Devon heaths.

The Birds Directive has driven international cooperation to protect the continent’s 500 wild bird species, many of which are migratory and do not respect national borders. And the Bathing Waters Directive is one of the principal reasons why our beaches and seas are so much cleaner than they were when I was a child.

We are not talking here about a few pieces of red tape conjured up overnight to address some short term political fad. These laws, and the regulations and guidance associated with them, have been built up by a number of countries working together over 40 years, tested in the courts time and again and shown to work. Their aim was never to benefit any one country or group of people, but simply to stem the tide of species loss, destruction of rare habitats and disappearance of beautiful wild places that has dogged modern society for much of the last century.

'Pressure to weaken environmental safeguards'

It is too early to have any clear idea of what our new political leaders might or might not do to protect our natural environment. But if the last few years are anything to judge by, we need to be prepared for continuing political pressure to weaken environmental safeguards and the protection they provide.

Maintaining a natural environment fit for us to inhabit is a long term imperative. It will outlast political campaigns, governments of all persuasions and any of us. And the consequences of any decisions taken in the coming months to strengthen or weaken environmental protection will be felt most keenly by future generations.

All of us who care about the natural environment need to put pressure on politicians of every persuasion to do more to protect our environment properly. We stand to lose three robust, rigorous and comprehensive laws and we need to know what will replace them.

'It is up to us'

Inside or outside the EU, we still need clean water, a healthy atmosphere and high quality greenspace.

So please, contact your MP, write to your local councillor, tell them how much you care about the protection of the natural world. Talk to your friends and encourage them to do likewise. It took decades of battling, persuading and negotiating to get the environmental safeguards we have had up until now. We need to make a noise if we want anything like this level of protection to remain in the future. We cannot rely on politicians in Westminster to do this. It is up to us.

Thank you as always for your support.
 

Read HarryBarton's latest blog entries.

Comments

    Thank you so much for writing this. I voted remain purely for the reasons you state above.I fear for our green spaces and it's wildlife, and it's future more than I fear for my own. I have shared this article with friends. hopefully, the new government will not only continue the laws currently in place, but with pressure from constituents, improve them.

    Friday 24th June 2016
    by

Post a comment

Thank you so much for writing this. I voted remain purely for the reasons you state above.I fear for our green spaces and it's wildlife, and it's future more than I fear for my own. I have shared this article with friends. hopefully, the new government will not only continue the laws currently in place, but with pressure from constituents, improve them.

Friday 24th June 2016
by