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Devon Brexit environment motion debate decision set for this Thursday (27 April)

Monday, 24 April 2017 0 Comments by Claire

My motion on protecting Devon’s nature after Britain leaves the European Union will be debated this Thursday (27 April) at Devon County Council’s full council meeting.

It is thought to be the first council motion of its kind in the country.

There are currently 122 sites across the county, covering 115,000 hectares that are protected under EU legislation - the Habitats and Birds Directives - including The Exe Estuary, Dawlish Warren, the Pebblebed Heaths, such as at Aylesbeare and Woodbury Commons, Braunton Burrows and large parts of Dartmoor, Exmoor and sections of Devon’s coast and coastal waters.

All are also designated Sites of Special Scientific interest and receive some protection under UK legislation.

We all fervently hope that the government will simply and straightforwardly transfer these laws into British law, but environmental groups are worried enough to have launched a campaign and are urging MPs to sign a pledge insisting that at least the same levels of protections are provided.

A number of species which are found in Devon such as the dormouse, otter and bats are given extra protection under EU legislation. These directives will no longer apply in their current form in UK law, even if the UK remains in the single market.

At the same time as all of these sites are set to lose this high level of protection under EU law, the latest State of Nature report outlined catastrophic news of our wildlife, finding that 15 per cent of those studied are threatened with extinction.  97 per cent of all wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s.

A government committee - the Environmental Audit Committee - has also outlined the dangers of not applying the same protections and urged the government to take action.

My motion, which I prepared with Pete Burgess from Devon Wildlife Trust, is:

Devon is home to many scarce and threatened habitats such our ancient woodlands, rivers and wetlands, upland blanket bogs, lowland heaths, Culm grasslands and our stunning coast
and marine environments.

These support a myriad of species with internationally important populations of marsh fritillary butterflies, greater horseshoe bats, otters, overwintering waders and marine creatures including whales, dolphins and basking shark.

European Union Habitats Regulations protection of land and seascapes such as the pebblebed heaths in East Devon, large swathes of Dartmoor and Exmoor, the Exe and Tamar Estuaries and Lundy Island have meant that wildlife has flourished over the years and has ensured that these places remain crucial international strongholds.

The latest State of Nature report published last October found that the UK has experienced huge losses of habitat and wildlife, and 15 per cent of those studied are threatened with extinction.

Leaving the European Union puts at risk all of these protections - and the Government has not yet promised to retain the same level of protections that currently exist under EU legislation.

This Council recognises the huge importance of these rich landscapes for people and wildlife in Devon – and calls upon the Secretary of State for the Environment to support the Environmental Audit Committee, as well as the coalition of wildlife and nature organisations, asking for retention of at least the same level of protection for our wildlife and environment, as takes place currently under EU law’.

The motion will be debated and a decision made on Thursday. The meeting starts at 2.15pm.

Pic:  Dartmoor, currently highly protected under EU legislation.

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