Nature groups demand wildlife benefits from post-Brexit farm policy

Adult stone curlew. Picture: Chris Knights/

Adult stone curlew. Picture: Chris Knights/

Chris Knights/

Britain’s largest nature organisations have joined forces to demand greater benefits for wildlife and the countryside within the government’s post-Brexit farming and environment policies.

A national partnership of WWF-UK, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB have urged the government to use the UK’s departure from the EU as “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for a fundamental reform of farming policy.

The groups want to see more measures to help declining species return to the countryside, as ministers begin the process of negotiating a replacement for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which currently distributes more than £3bn in UK subsidies and incentive schemes.

Key demands from the partnership include an independent Policy Commission, continuation of agri-environment schemes and a new UK policy for the countryside with high environmental standards for land management.

The organisations said with around three quarters of the UK’s landscape being farmed, the agricultural policies that influence management of the countryside could do much more to support sustainable farming which not only produces good food, but also rewards farmers for protecting and restoring the farmed environment.

John Sharpe, RSPB conservation manager for Eastern England, said: “The last two decades have seen significant reform of the agricultural policies of the 1970s and 80s that contributed to some of the worst declines in British wildlife our countryside has ever seen. In the East of England, schemes designed to support farmers doing work that benefits wildlife have helped save species like stone curlew from extinction in the UK.

“Unfortunately, taken as a whole these reforms have managed only to slow the decline of farmland wildlife, not stop it, let alone reverse it.

“The popularity of schemes like Countryside Stewardship is evidence of farmers’ desire to deliver for nature at the same time as producing food and running successful farm businesses.

“Further reform so that public money is spent to secure public benefits, such as wildlife, which the market cannot supply is vital if we are serious about stemming the loss of wildlife from the countryside and saving species like the turtle dove, which continue to decline at an alarming rate. We have a chance to get it right, we mustn’t miss it.”

WWF-UK, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB collectively have over six million members and supporters across the UK. They own and manage 500,000 hectares of land, around half of which is actively farmed, either in hand or by one of their 2,000 tenants and graziers.

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