Cameron’s chance to save the countryside’s national treasures

Posted on 9th December 2013

PM must ensure £15 billion of public money is spent on public benefits

Turtle doves, harvest mice, globeflowers, pollinating bees and other much-loved wild plants and animals could disappear from much of the English countryside if the Prime Minister, David Cameron, fails to prioritise the environment when making a key decision next week on how to  spend £15 billion of public money.

This huge sum is destined for English farmers and will shape the future of 69% of the English landscape.  The question Cameron must answer is: will the money be given to farmers who implement environmentally-friendly practises or will it be handed over as income support with few environmental strings attached?  The average family pays an estimated £400 a year towards the Common Agricultural Policy. Cameron needs to ensure they get value for money.

The choice is between a healthy, wildlife-rich farmed landscape where hedgerows, clean rivers and our much-loved wild plants and animals co-exist with sustainable food production – and a countryside where nature, already greatly diminished, ebbs further into inexorable decline. In May this year, The State of Nature report revealed that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. Cameron’s decision is make or break for our natural heritage.

 

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape at The Wildlife Trusts, said:  “David Cameron’s green credentials have taken a bashing in recent weeks but now he has a chance to redeem himself. We’re asking him to support his Environment Minister, Owen Paterson’s commitment to transfer 15% of the budget that provides direct payments to farmers to the budget that supports wildlife-friendly farming schemes. However, as wildlife-friendly farming schemes will cover 35-40% of the country at best, he also needs to ensure that environmental standards are raised across the whole of the farmed landscape by agreeing to a national ‘greening’ scheme for England linked to the payments that all farmers receive. It is vital to green the bigger picture and invest in the health of our rivers, the survival of our meadows and the wildflower-studded pastures that are so crucial for bees and butterflies.”

 

*Ten of the many farmland species whose fate Cameron holds in the balance are: turtle dove, yellowhammer, corn bunting, lapwing, harvest mouse, brown hare, Duke of Burgundy butterfly, corn buttercup, globe flower and shrill carder bee – details below.

 

Paul Wilkinson has written a blog here and here’s an infographic explaining the CAP money story.