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Open NGO letter responding to proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981)

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Open NGO letter responding to proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

28th January 2022

Dear JNCC, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and NatureScot,

Re: 7th Quinquennial Review (QQR) of Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981)

We are writing this open letter in response to the consultation about proposed changes to the eligibility and decision criteria to determine which species will be included on Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as outlined in the 7th Quinquennial Review (QQR7) consultation document. 

Since our previous letter sent in June 2021, we appreciate the extension made to the consultation period, the initiation of stakeholder meetings, the subsequent amendments made to the QQR7 proposals and the broadening of the consultation to include the eligibility and decision criteria. However, 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.

  • Listing only Critically Endangered (CR) and some Endangered (EN) species is counter to the accepted notion that Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable species are all considered at risk of extinction
  • All species in these Red List categories need urgent conservation action and attention
  • The proposal is counter to the aims of new Environment Act in England which aims to halt the decline of species by 2030 as well as the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, the Nature Recovery Action Plan for Wales and the Nature Positive 2030 report.
  • Restricting the number of species listed on Schedules 5 & 8 will be detrimental to Great Britain’s biodiversity and efforts to restore it
  • Exclusion of species from the Schedules risks their status worsening before the next QQR, which is arguably more costly in terms of time and money required to restore Critically Endangered species thereafter.  The more cost effective option would be to prevent less critical species reaching that point. This is particularly pertinent in the face of the current Biodiversity Crisis exemplified by widespread, once-common but declining species such as hedgehogs and toads.

Limiting the criteria to CR and EN species, and then making a series of ‘special cases’ for retaining selected species categorised as Vulnerable, Near Threatened and Least Concern, presents an inconsistent rationale that undermines the Red Data listing system. For example, the list of species proposed for retention on Schedules 5 and 8 includes 74 (roughly 25%) that would not meet the new eligibility criteria; this inconsistency surely weakens the argument for changing the criteria.

Whilst the eligibility criteria appear to identify species based on their conservation status and need, the proposed changes to the decision criteria will limit applications that have any positive conservation impact. The suggested definition of ‘place of shelter’ for animals appears to narrow the scope for interpretation of a species’ needs to survive:

  • The use of the word ‘permanently’ is inappropriately restrictive given that many species depend upon multiple sites to rest or nest, moving frequently (e.g. dormice, harvest mice) or lack clearly defined territories (e.g. hedgehogs)
  • The use of the word ‘regularly’ is unhelpful and ambiguous; without frequent and regular monitoring of sites, how will the regularity of the use of a site be established?

We would like formally to state our joint position that the proposed changes to the eligibility and decision criteria as defined for the 7th Quinquennial Review (QQR7) for adding species to Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are not fit for purpose.  If adopted these changes would inevitably weaken efforts to address the current Biodiversity Crisis and undermine the new aims of the Environment Act in England.  We urge you 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.

We await your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC)

Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK)

A Rocha UK

Badger Trust

Bat Conservation Trust

Biological Recording in Scotland (BRISC)

Black2Nature

Born Free Foundation

British Dragonfly Society

British Ecological Society

British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS)

British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)

British Trust for Ornithology

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Butterfly Conservation

Citizen Zoo

CPRE Kent, the countryside charity

Dumfries and Galloway Pine Marten Group

Freshwater Habitats Trust

Friends of Glasgow’s Local Nature Reserves

The Froglife Trust

Glasgow Natural History Society

Hare Preservation Trust

Institute of Fisheries Management

Knepp Estate

The League Against Cruel Sports

The Mammal Society

Marine Conservation Society

Naturewatch Foundation

OneKind

People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES)

Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK)

Rewilding Britain

RSPB

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)

Salmon & Trout Conservation

Scottish Badgers

Scottish Wild Land Group (SWLG)

Scottish Wildlife Trust

Trees for Life

Wales Environment Link

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)Wildlife and Countryside Link

Wild Justice

Wildlife Gardening Forum

The Wildlife Trusts

Wildlife Trusts Wales

The Woodland Trust

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

PTES submitted this response to JNCC highlighting our concerns about their proposed changes to criteria determining which species of wildlife are eligible to be listed on schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

PTES also collated the following evidence in partnership with BHPS to make the case for giving hedgehogs greater protection by moving them from schedule 6 to schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

PTES also collated the following evidence in partnership with the Hare Preservation Trust to make the case for retaining mountain hares on Schedule 5 (Scotland) and adding the species to Schedule 5 (England and Wales) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

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