The Wildlife Trusts believe in a future Britain where nature is a normal part of childhood and where wildlife thrives across the landscape. Where our urban spaces are green jungles and our seas are bursting with life. Where seeing a hedgehog is an every day experience.
Here are our proposals for a Nature Recovery Network to put space for nature at the heart of our farming and planning systems; to bring nature into the places where most people live their daily lives. We need new laws, including an Environment Act passed by the Westminster government, to ensure this happens. In it, local Nature Recovery Maps would be produced to achieve key Government targets for increasing the extent and quality of natural habitats, turning nature’s recovery from an aspiration to a reality.
If you could travel forward in time, and visit your home town two decades from today, the last thing you’d expect is that people would feel sorry for you.
It might be hard to work out why at first. Of course, there are little differences, but each one doesn’t seem that strange on its own. The air is cleaner, and the hubbub of vehicle noise has almost vanished from the streets. Nearly all buildings seem to have green roofs, or even green walls. Housing estates now come with green arteries, many of them incorporating old hedgerows and trees. Farm fields have colourful wildflower strips running alongside, or ponds, or thick hedges. There are more hedgehogs, swallows and housemartins, and a lot more insects.
Finally, you realise what it is. The people. They simply look healthier and happier, more willing to talk. There’s less stress and anxiety than there used to be. Children especially seem to understand that the natural world is the foundation of our wellbeing and prosperity; that we depend on it, and it depends on us.
Which is, after all, how it is.
Britain in 2018
The UK today is a human-dominated landscape. Most original habitats have gone, and natural ecosystems are fragmented. Woods, meadows, ponds and other places with lots of wild plants and animals are getting smaller, fewer, more polluted, and more cut-off from each other. Most of our plants and animals are declining. One in ten face extinction.
Given the pressure on land for food, roads and housing, this is not surprising. However, our separation from nature has led to other unintended negative effects.
Our lifestyles are unsustainable and overlook the value of natural systems. We need healthy soil to grow food in, clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and green space for exercise and relaxation. No one disputes this – yet our farming and planning systems have often taken us in the opposite direction.
Wildlife can be brought back when the will and the space is there. Previous generations lived with clouds of butterflies, snowstorms of moths, and hedges shaking with dense flocks of farmland birds.
We need to decide what kind of future we want – wilder, or not?
The Solution – A Nature Recovery Network
Wildlife and natural systems joined up, and working, everywhere
A Nature Recovery Network is a joined-up system of places important for wild plants and animals, on land and at sea.
It allows plants, animals, seeds, nutrients and water to move from place to place and enables the natural world to adapt to change. It provides plants and animals with places to live, feed and breed.
It can only do this effectively if, like our road network, it is treated as a joined-up whole.
Our vision for a Network
Making space for nature to meet the needs of wildlife and people
Nature conservation in the last century succeeded in protecting some vital wildlife sites. But wildlife has still declined.
Protected wildlife sites alone cannot meet the needs of wildlife or our society. To achieve that, we also need to provide effective protection for the many other places in the landscape that are still rich in wildlife despite the many pressures they face.
And we must invest time, effort, commitment and money into bringing wildlife back across a far wider area – stitching back together Britain’s tattered natural fabric of wild land.
“Every space in Britain must be used to help wildlife.”
Sir David Attenborough
We need to create a Nature Recovery Network that extends into every part of our towns, cities and countryside, bringing wildlife and the benefits of a healthy natural world into every part of life. Letting flowers bloom along road verges, installing green roofs across city skylines, planting more street trees to give people shady walks in the summer, encouraging whole communities to garden for wild plants and animals.
A network that brings wildlife into every neighbourhood would also provide fairer access to nature for people. Studies have shown the benefits of living close to nature, but many people are deprived of these benefits.
To read our report click on the image below: