• Speaking as part of a Wildlife Trusts broadcast, Environment Secretary George Eustace today announced major new initiatives to restore nature in the UK
  • Policy initiatives to protect peatlands and ban peat in garden compost, plant millions of trees and set legal targets to reverse the decline of wildlife species

Speaking at a ‘Wild Live’ event broadcast from Delamere Forest, in Cheshire this afternoon, Environment Secretary George Eustace outlined the government’s plans to tackle the climate and ecological crises in the UK.

Key policy announcements included trebling the rate of tree-planting to 7,000 hectares by 2024; the introduction of legally binding targets for the recovery of species in the Environment Bill currently making its way through Parliament, the protection and restoration of 35,000 hectares of peatland and a ban on the sale of peat products also coming into effect in 2024.

Reacting to the speech, Dr Gary Mantle MBE, Chief Executive of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, welcomed the announcements:

For years we have campaigned about the need for urgent Government action on both the ecological and climate crises.  Today’s announcements are a massive step in the right direction.  Many thanks to all those who have supported our campaigns calling for the better protection of wildlife. 

Setting legally binding targets is an important step in halting the decline in the abundance and diversity of species.  The statements indicate a welcome shift in emphasis to delivering nature’s recovery and include protection for woodlands and peat bogs, and the reintroduction of species that have disappeared or are declining, such as the curlew.

Dr Mantle continued;

Today’s statement is welcome, but it reminds us that there is so much that needs to be done. Nature’s recovery requires support for the agricultural sector with sustainable farming incentives helping farmers adapt to new, nature-friendly practices. Local authorities have a key role to play too, for example allowing wildflowers to grow on road verges and in parks, and reducing their reliance on pesticides such as glyphosate.  Change can happen in other ways such as installing swift bricks into all new buildings to address the loss of populations of swifts which have fallen by 96% since 1994.

While the ambition to treble the rate of new trees being planted is commendable, it is essential that we have the right trees in the right place.  We also need to protect what we have; ancient woodland is far higher in biodiversity than new plantation forests. 

Over the next few years our challenge is to build a Nature Recovery Network across the county and ensure that more than 30% of land and sea is properly protected for nature by 2030.

To find out more about the Wildlife Trust’s 30 by 30 campaign, visit https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/30-30-30

Watch the Wild LIVE speech: