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My plans to protect nature is agreed by Devon County Council cabinet

Saturday, 11 March 2017 1 Comment by Claire

Devon County Council’s cabinet has endorsed my motion which seeks to protect Devon’s nature from the risks of leaving the European Union.

It has recommended to full council next month that we support a coalition of green charities and a government environmental committee, calling on the government to apply at least the same level of protection in UK law as exists under EU law.

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.

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 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’.

It’s brilliant that the cabinet has supported my motion and I look forward to the debate at full council on Thursday 27 April.

Comments

1. At 09:38 am on 13th Mar Chris Wakefield wrote:

This is hugely important, and I’m relieved that DCC seems to have realised how vital it is to pay proper attention to environmental issues and how important they are to our future wellbeing - economic and political as well as personal and (dare I say it), spiritual.

The southwestern peninsula (Devon and Cornwall) has always been a culturally distinct region - different to the rest of England in too many ways to enumerate or explain here - but it is those distinctions which earn us a living from tourism, and which draw so many people to visit and ultimately perhaps want to live here. Reconciling the opposing demands of modern economic and political ambitions with a stable and sustainable society and a healthy environment is a job that cannot be put off for much longer. We face a prospect of unabated increases in global temperature, population, poverty and inequality, mostly driven by out of date economic and political thinking that will inevitably be hard to shift.

But this decision is a start isn’t it? - and if we can collaborate to follow it through, learn how to appreciate and sustain the glories that greet us daily in every acre of Devonshire’s landscape - not just how it looks from a vantage point, but why it looks like it does, how it works, where it came from, what its made of, what it conceals and what it can teach us about the way we conduct our lives, then we shall be in a better position to bequeath a viable future to our progeny.

Hang on. Must have drunk too much coffee this morning - can get overly lyrical when that happens. But well done again Claire, and I hope your DCC colleagues will keep listening to your environmental persuasions. Maybe Counties are a good place to push these issues along because they are close enough to our everyday lives to be obviously relevant. Westminster will probably always be entangled with larger and less sympathetic forces, and thus less able to take decisive action. Will look out for 27th April events.

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