A new report commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWF, highlights significant gaps in environmental protection following the UK's exit from the European Union (EU).

The report also argues that a new system of regulation is needed to maintain and improve farming and environmental standards.

The Agriculture Bill, which is to be debated in the House of Commons today, presents a welcome transformative vision for agriculture in which payments will be made to farmers to tackle the climate and nature crisis. However, it fails to address the need to improve the ways in which the UK Government will ensure farmers meet minimum environmental standards after the country leaves the EU. This puts the natural world – from hedgerows and soils to ponds and rivers and the wildlife that depends on such habitats – at significant risk.

The three wildlife charities are calling on the government to close the gaps in regulation and include a power in the Agriculture Bill to introduce and enforce a new regulatory framework for agriculture which addresses the gaps.

Without additional measures, we stand to lose regulations which ensure that:

  • Hedgerows are not cut during the bird nesting season.
  • Wild 'buffer' strips alongside hedgerows are not ploughed or sprayed with pesticides.
  • Bare soils are protected from blowing away or draining into rivers.
  • Ponds are safeguarded.

yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Hedgerows support up to 80% of woodland birds, 50% of our mammals and 30% of our butterflies. The ditches and banks that surround hedges double up as homes for frogs, toads, newts and reptiles. They provide song posts, shelter and nesting sites for both woodland and farmland birds such as Yellowhammer, European Turtle Dove and Common Linnet. Bats use hedgerows as feeding sites, as well as flight paths to commute between their roosts and foraging ground; they are particularly significant to bats with a limited echolocation range such as pipistrelles. Hedgerows are also important to hedgehogs, which use them for protection from predators, nesting and for their great supply of the invertebrates they like to eat.

The potential loss of regulations that prevent hedgerow cutting during the bird breeding season could lead to nests being destroyed, with disastrous results for some of our most threatened species.

Read the full article here 


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