The UK has voted to leave the EU and the challenges faced by Sussex’s wildlife are as great as they have ever been. Wildlife is under real pressure from intensive land use and development on land and at sea. Our lives are becoming more remote from the natural world. We could now have a much-diminished suite of tools available to help us meet our charitable objectives and a host of other environmental safeguards could be at risk as well.
Nevertheless we will use this time to look for opportunities to improve the lot of Sussex wildlife. Whatever your view on Britain’s position in Europe, we live in a changing world and it is clear that there is now a huge task to make sure that nature conservation is given proper consideration. The Sussex Wildlife Trust would like to see this as a stepping stone to a brighter future for our natural environment.
It is time to focus on the future of our natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife. To concentrate on what a healthy natural environment can do for us and what we must do for it.
The Wildlife Trusts nationally is working to build strong collaborations between the Trusts and other environmental organisations and have already had high level meetings with government. The Sussex Wildlife Trust will be supporting them in this work and will be working locally to give Sussex wildlife a voice as decisions are made.
The future is uncertain, but currently there are four key issues and opportunities we feel we need to focus on:
Nature Conservation Protection
Protection of nature in the future must be as good as, or better than, the level of protection it was given whilst in the EU. Current EU laws still hold until Britain actually leaves, but once this happens, our internationally important sites and species may become threatened. There are other international conventions that would likely stay in place and could give some recognition at this level. We will lobby Government to set up new laws for the UK that give our precious wildlife and environment the same protections as under the current EU laws.
Removal of the Common Fisheries Policy could result in over-exploitation and damage to the marine environment. However, there are also opportunities to create fisheries policy that ensures a sustainable future for the marine environment and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. The delivery of an ambitious third tranche of marine conservation zones and the completion of effective management plans for those already designated must also be a priority.
The Common Agricultural Policy will no longer apply when we leave EU, which means that farmers may no longer receive financial support for the nature conservation work they undertake on their land. However with this loss there is an opportunity to look at a new approach to subsidies, based on investing in actions by farmers that are for the public benefit. Not subsiding food production for its own sake, but investing in all the benefits that sympathetic farming can create such as pollination, flood alleviation and biodiversity, as well as food.
Funding for Nature Conservation
Some important conservation work by both charities and individual landowners is currently supported through EU funds, particularly through agri-environment agreements and direct funding for specific projects. Investment in nature is investment in our economy and our own wellbeing. We must all work to ensure that the Government invests in nature.
We should not under-estimate the size of the task we face in order to get good outcomes for nature. We will have to work hard to gain a good position for wildlife, and this against a background of shrinking resources and reducing funding for our environment.
However, with the huge amount of support given to the Trust by its members and volunteers, and with the good reputation we have built up as a positive nature conservation organisation, we feel we are in a good position to enable Sussex to become the home for nature’s recovery. The support of our members past present and future, has never been more important.