A Bat Conservation Manifesto

Bat conservation faces many threats, including inappropriate or unambitious environmental policies, chronic underfunding of environmental services and the climate crisis. Though current protections have enabled some positive signs of recovery, there are still UK bat species at risk of extinction and declines in some species and areas.

Right now, the UK’s political parties have the opportunity and obligation to make real progress for the environment and commit to what nature needs, which in turn provides many benefits to people and communities.

Our asks

We believe that every UK political party should commit to:

A Bat Conservation Manifesto

Our five asks (also below)

1. Keep legal protection for all bat species and improve its implementation

Bats are an important part of our natural heritage; they make up a quarter of our mammal species. Bats make up four of the 11 mammal species native to Britain classified as being at risk of extinction.

Bats are legally protected from harm and these protections have helped some populations to recover from historical declines. Multiple government reviews have found that the legislation is fit for purpose but that it needs improved implementation and increased funding to environmental agencies to be effective.

Improved implementation is a straightforward, cost-effective measure to protect some of Britain’s most charismatic species and habitats from decline and extinction.

2. Make all new development species-friendly

Current guidance is lacking holistic, proactive suggestions of how to keep bats in developed areas and in turn connect people with nature. For example, the National Model Design Code in England briefly references bat boxes without consideration of wider supporting factors like habitat availability or sensitive artificial lighting.

Existing government guidance is not enough to equip developers, contractors, local authorities and applicants up and down the country to more effectively and holistically support bats.

Our environmental agencies and authorities need to be encouraged and resourced to enforce, apply and improve on the guidance available. They should also be supported to shift towards nature-friendly decision-making legislation for bats, other wildlife and people.

3. Deploy climate change mitigation in harmony with nature

Renewable energy and improving energy efficiency is an essential part of mitigating climate change and providing a reliable, sustainable energy system. If not planned carefully, however, renewable energy developments or energy efficiency schemes can have very detrimental impacts on bats and other species.

Therefore, future projects need to carefully consider how to minimize their impacts on bats, as well as birds and other wildlife. Ecological impact assessments should be carried out by suitably qualified ecologists for renewable energy projects, who will then help to design suitable mitigation measures to avoid or reduce any impacts on protected wildlife.

4. Support long-term nature-friendly farming through agricultural schemes

Agriculture must work hand in hand with the environment, bringing cost-effective nature management while not risking sustainable food production. Agricultural subsidies need to reflect this and defund farming practices that damage the environment and reduce long-term sustainability.

Agencies need to be better funded to allow them to improve the incredibly low monitoring and enforcement rates. Subsidies, payments and schemes must encourage nature-friendly farming and forestry, including target actions for particular species and management strategies that are sensitive to the needs of the ecosystems.

5. Improve wildlife crime recording, investigation and prosecution

Despite robust legislation, crimes against bats still happen and recent analysis from the National Wildlife Crime Unit has shown that these crimes are vastly under recorded.

One way to tackle this is to make more crimes against bats ‘recordable’ and ‘notifiable’. This means that when a wildlife crime is reported to the police, they would have to keep a record and notify the Home Office. Notifiable status for wildlife crime offences is critical in identifying the extent of offending against UK species and habitats and will help to develop tactical preventative measures.

Excellent progress has already been made towards improved recording as wildlife crime training and Rural Wildlife Crime units are already in place in the majority of UK police services. Additionally, sentencing guidelines and maintained or increased police resources are needed to support prosecutions and investigations for wildlife crimes.

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