Cornwall Wildlife Trust welcomes new 25 year Environment Plan but highlights action is key

Thursday 11th January 2018

Cornish farm hedge by Stuart Coleman

Cornwall Wildlife Trust welcomes the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan which was released today. Many of the policies outlined in the plan align closely with the Trust’s own ambitions; namely protecting and enhancing wildlife on land and at sea and re-connecting people with nature. The document calls for ‘an approach to agriculture, forestry, land-use and fishing that puts the environment first’, something that Cornwall has collectively advocated in the Cornwall Environmental Growth strategy launched back in 2016 by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership.

Mark Nicholson, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Chair of Trustees says,

 “It is hugely exciting to see a Government plan that is so closely aligned to the Trust’s own strategic plan and Cornwall’s ambition as a whole to achieve Environmental Growth. Our challenge to the Government is now to back up the proposals with watertight legislation to make sure they become reality. The Trust is already delivering significant land-based and marine projects working constructively with farmers, fishermen, landowners, volunteers and the local community in the county to enhance nature and benefit businesses. This is in addition to managing its own nature reserves in Cornwall which total over 2000 hectares.”

Innovative and far-reaching work to protect wildlife and wild places is happening across many parts of Cornwall and the Government’s 25 year plan could be instrumental in these projects leading to a situation where putting the environment first becomes mainstream. A key aim of the Defra plan is to provide clean and plentiful water. Cornwall Wildlife Trust is currently working with farmers to reduce pollution of rivers and streams in seven project areas across the county to protect the quality of our drinking water and bathing waters. The Trust has collaborated with the marine fisheries industry to develop the Cornwall Good Seafood Guide, a county approach to delivering the Government’s stated aim of using resources from nature more sustainably.

Re-connecting people with nature so that society can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits provided by the natural world is another aim of the Defra plan. The Trust provides free public access to most of its nature reserves so they can be enjoyed by local communities.

Callum Deveney, Head of Nature Reserves at the Trust says,

“The Trust and many other landowners in Cornwall collectively want to provide a network of sites suitable for running health walks and other aspects of natural prescribing. Up to now, the mechanisms for delivering this have not been available, but with Government backing, we may be able to make this a reality for Cornwall.”

Another way in which the plan acknowledges the value of nature to society is through mitigating the impacts of flooding and drought. Beaver reintroduction may be one approach to this and the Government is giving permission for more fenced trials. Cornwall Beaver Project, a partnership between Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Woodland Valley farm and the University of Exeter is one of several existing beaver trials studying the potential of beaver dams to hold back flood water, create new wetland habitats and filter out pollutants.

Marine plastic pollution, something we are very familiar with in Cornwall, features strongly in the 25-year plan. The Cornwall Plastic Pollution Coalition, formed from members of the Trust’s Your Shore Beach Rangers network of marine conservation groups, has worked with Government to help inform their marine plastics policy.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust shares much of the vision of the new 25-year Environment Plan but the task ahead can only be helped if the ambition of the plan is set in law, receives adequate funding and is overseen by an environmental watchdog that has genuine clout. The Trust will continue to work locally with its partners to help deliver the environmental growth principle of this plan and will be campaigning with other environmental organisations nationally for a powerful new Environment Act so that there is accountability for the targets introduced today.

To download Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s 2016 – 2021 Strategic Plan please visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/strategicplan