Changes to species listing on the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

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Wildlife conservation NGOs issue two open letters to oppose a review of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which could undermine decades of work to restore and protect threatened species.

You can read our open letters here:

28th January 2022

28th June 2021

What’s happened?

  • Every 5 years the species listed in Schedules 5 and 8 of the Countryside and Wildlife Act (1981) are reviewed through a process called the Quinquennial Review (QQR). These reviews are coordinated by the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). 
  • Many of the species currently included in appendix 5 and 8 are there because experts have recommended their inclusion either due to persecution, population decline or other threats.
  • In the latest QQR, in a change from the normal process the QQR Review Group (consisting of JNCC and the three country nature conservation bodies; Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, and representatives of the non-governmental sector) has changed the eligibility criteria of species currently (and in future times) listed and therefore afforded protection by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This change means that an animal or plant species will only be protected when it is in imminent danger of extinction as defined by the highest categories in the IUCN red listing process, or those identified as European Protected Species.  This decision was made without due consultation and without consideration to concerns raised by NGOs. 
  • Large numbers of species (although the exact figure was not been quantified in the original Information Pack) would no longer have been protected against killing and sale by law including iconic and persecuted species such as the Mountain Hare and Adder.
  • In response to this proposal over 30 wildlife conservation NGOs sent an open letter opposing the changes and calling for a public consultation on the decision to change the eligibility criteria (before proceeding with the planned timetable).
  • As a result, the Review Group held NGO stakeholder meetings, engaged in dialogue with the NGOs, extended the consultation phase of QQR7 and broadened it’s scope to include the eligibility and decision criteria and made changes to their proposal which meant the majority of species would remain listed.  Whilst we appreciate the changes that have been made, we stand by our original objections, notably that the definition of endangerment within the eligibility criteria must not be narrowed to exclude Vulnerable (VU) species.
  • Froglife and other NGOs have completed the consultation to feedback our individual concerns about this approach and we have issued a second open letter  signed by over 45 NGOs to formally to state their joint position that the proposed changes to the eligibility and decision criteria are not fit for purpose.

What’s the problem?

  • Species at risk of extinction can be proposed for listing on Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  The newly proposed eligibility criteria aim to define risk of extinction as Critically Endangered or Endangered, however this is an incorrect application of the IUCN Red List.  Species categorised as Vulnerable are also considered at risk of extinction on the IUCN Red List however these will be excluded in the new criteria.  If adopted the changes to the eligibility and decision criteria would inevitably weaken efforts to address the current Biodiversity Crisis and undermine the new aims of the Environment Act in England.

What do we want to do about it?

  • We are now urging the Review Group to adopt a new approach that is unambiguous and supportive of efforts to reverse declines in biodiversity, with broader criteria rather than making cases for exceptions.

These three open letters, signed by 47 environmental UK NGOs, were sent to UK Ministers as well as Ministers in Scottish and Welsh Governments containing the joint response to JNCC’s report of stakeholder consultation relating to QQR7. This letter strongly expresses the concerns of the NGOs about the eligibility and decision criteria relating to the listing of species on Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, both in the context of the current review and regarding future approaches to protecting species.

NGO Letter June 2022 – England

NGO Letter June 2022 – Scotland

NGO Letter June 2022 – Wales

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