Author Tony Whitbread
The result of EU Referendum means a very uncertain future for Sussex’s wildlife. We could now have a much-diminished suite of tools available to help us meet our charitable objectives. We are going to miss the special protection afforded to key sites, to habitats like chalk grasslands and chalk streams, to bats and dormice, kingfishers, and Dartford warblers. And a host of other environmental safeguards could be at risk as well.
Nevertheless we will use this time to look for opportunity to improve the lot of Sussex wildlife. Whatever your view on Britain’s position in Europe, we live in a changing world and it is clear that there is now a huge task to make sure that nature conservation is given proper consideration.
The environment was such a small part of the “leave” campaign that there is no mandate to weaken Britain’s approach to the natural world. Indeed some who have promoted leaving the EU have assured us that funding for environmentally friendly farming will be retained and developed further, and that legislation to protect wildlife will be strengthened, not weakened, in an independent UK.
We will now call upon those involved to honour their commitments and build a better future for our wildlife, wild places and for the people who enjoy it – and depend on it – every day. Ambitious well-funded national plans must be produced to restore the abundance of wildlife. More and better incentives need to be paid to farmers to reward them for wildlife friendly management. We must complete an effective UK network of marine protected areas. And to underpin all this we need to rebuild the connection between people and wildlife.
In the Sussex Wildlife Trust we are looking for opportunity in all these areas and will be engaging in negotiations to get the best for wildlife. Before the referendum, government departments, such as DEFRA, were looking at long term plans to restore nature within a generation. This has become even more important against the uncertainty of recent weeks and we are already building partnerships with government and non-government organisations to develop positive future plans for the environment.
We should not under-estimate the size of the task we face in order to get good outcomes for nature. We will have to work hard to gain a good position for wildlife, and this against a background of shrinking resources and reducing funding for our environment. Nevertheless, with the huge amount of support given to the Trust by its members and volunteers, and with the good reputation we have built up as a positive nature conservation organisation, we feel we are in a good position to enable Sussex to become the home for nature’s recovery. The support of our members: past present and future, has never been more important.