7th July 2021
BCT has signed an open letter to express our concerns over the change to the eligibility criteria by which species will be included on Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA). The letter, signed by 33 wildlife NGOs, calls for a public consultation on the decision to change the eligibility criteria.
As they stand, the proposed changes would mean that species will only receive legal protection when they are in imminent danger of extinction. This could undermine decades of work to restore and protect threatened species. Under current proposals, bats would maintain their legal protection but the principle established during this review could be used to weaken protection in the future. We share the concerns expressed in the letter which can be downloaded HERE.
- Every 5 years species listed in Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) are reviewed through a process called the Quinquennial Review (QQR), coordinated by the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).
- Many species are listed because conservation experts have recommended their inclusion either due to persecution, population decline or other threats.
- The WCA seeks to give statutory protection to species that are in danger of extinction in Great Britain or are likely to become endangered unless conservation measures are taken. However JNCC, through the Review Group led by JNCC, (Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and NatureScot) are now proposing that 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 means that species that are perhaps not imminently in danger of extinction but are susceptible to human pressures such as bats, may face reduced protection. This decision has been made without due consultation and - to date - has not considered concerns raised by conservation NGOs.
- Large numbers of species (although the exact figure has not been quantified in the Information Pack) will now no longer be protected against killing and sale by law including iconic and previously persecuted species such as mountain hares and adders.
What’s the problem?
- Removal of protection means it will no longer be illegal to kill these species. Building developments could take place with no consideration of the impacts on formerly protected species such as slow worms and water voles (if a case cannot be made to keep the latter listed). It also means that it will once again be legal to persecute adders, pine martens and mountain hares – despite all the costly efforts to try and conserve these vulnerable species.
- It would become legal to trade wild-caught British species including amphibians and butterflies – directly impacting populations and posing a huge biosecurity risk.
- Changes to the eligibility criteria means that species of concern to conservationists and the public, like the hedgehog and brown hare, would not be protected under the schedules.
- Some species currently protected under the Schedules (e.g. the pine marten, which is classed as Least Concern under the IUCN listing) may only be less scarce because they are listed and the protection is necessary and effective. Removing conservation-dependent species from the Schedules could cause serious decline.
- Whilst very valuable, the GB IUCN red listing process is not suitable for this purpose. It is complex and requires high levels of evidence of population trends. There is a great deal of evidence not yet known and this data deficiency is another concern in the proposed approach. To overcome this need for improved knowledge requires high level species surveys and analysis of the data to determine population trends at a national scale. There has been no provision made as to how this will be resourced and there is a concern that the expectation will be for NGOs to take on the burden of this work. IUCN guidance specifically identifies automatic use of Red List categories in policy as an "inappropriate use" of the Red List;
- The changes that have been decided by the QQR Review Group remove the opportunity to prevent species decline. Under the changes outlined we will only be reacting to catastrophic species declines. The 2019 State of Nature Report found that one in seven species in Britain are under threat, including a quarter of British mammal species facing extinction. The changes could make this situation worse.
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