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New threat to England’s wildlife-rich hedgerows from ‘gap’ in agricultural policy - RSPB

yellowhammer in brambles on top of a hedge (pixabay)
Yellowhammers have declined by 60% across the UK since 1970 and are now red-listed as one of the birds of most conservation concern. (image: pixabay)

England’s iconic hedgerows face a substantial new threat due to upcoming changes in agricultural policy putting key wildlife such as hedgehogs and farmland birds at risk, unless swift action is taken by the government.

By 2027, farming in England will have moved away from outdated policies, towards a new system focused on environmental land management. However, a new report, Mind the Gap, by the RSPB has found that during the transition between the two systems, several gaps in environmental protection will occur. One of these, is the level of protection afforded to hedgerows which will be weakened unless action is taken by Defra to plug this gap.

The RSPB’s senior policy officer, Philip Carson said “Hedgerows have an important role to play in addressing the nature and climate emergency, supporting a vast array of wildlife and storing significant quantities of carbon. We must ensure these vital habitats are protected both now and in the future. If current protections are lost it could have a devastating impact on hedgerows and for our countryside’s already beleaguered wildlife. The last State of Nature report showed that farmland nature is in freefall, we need urgent action to turn this around. This must include proper protection for farmland habitats alongside incentives which make a genuine contribution towards restoring nature and the environment. So far, Defra’s proposed solution is to pay for hedgerow protection. However, paying for activities that were previously a universal requirement represents poor value for money, costing tens of millions of taxpayer pounds without delivering any additional benefits. Funding would be far better spent on more ambitious actions such as hedgerow restoration, enhancement, and creation.”

Posted on: 26 November 2021

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