Monday, January 24, 2022

The government “may not be able to restore nature” under the national park plan.

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The government has been warned it may be too slow to meet its promise to restore nature by 2030 as it unveils a plan to protect national parks that has been in the works for more than two years.

Environment Secretary George Eustice has tabled proposals to encourage natural recreation and protect England’s national parks, with a public consultation to gather people’s views.

The program includes “ambitious changes to improve access to nature and ensure protected landscapes can do more for climate, nature, people and places over the next 70 years and beyond”.

A new ‘National Landscape Partnership’ will allow those responsible for England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) to work together to restore nature and improve public access.

The idea is that they run campaigns, organize events and offer volunteer work to bring people closer to nature.

The 12-week consultation will seek opinions on proposals to advance natural restoration of landscapes and support the communities that live and work in them.

In 2018, Julian Glover, a former government adviser and speechwriter to David Cameron, was asked to review the protection of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty and wrote a report the following year. These plans have now been drawn up in response to this.

Ministers said protected landscapes play an essential role in tackling the climate crisis, protecting biodiversity and promoting health and well-being.

A survey by Natural England found nearly half the population says they’ve been spending more time outdoors since the pandemic began, and most adults polled by Forest Research agreed their happiness in nature has increased.

However, the RSPB criticized the time it took to draft a response to the review and urged ministers to do more and more quickly.

England Director of Charities Emma Marsh said: “Today’s announcement is a step forward. It’s good to see a headline commitment to giving England’s protected landscapes a greater focus on nature restoration and making other changes to help them achieve that.

“But the government needs to go further and faster and legislate to get those changes.

“It must also provide these landscapes with the resources they need, including a doubling of the woefully underfunded AONBs.

“We’ve waited more than two years for a response that still doesn’t include a clear timeline with commitments to bold action. At this rate, hopes of meeting government promises to restore nature by 2030 will soon be dashed.

“These are landscapes for all and we all need to make our voices heard during the consultation to ensure the government backs its rhetoric with action.”

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