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New announcements to boost nature recovery one year on from the launch of the Environmental Improvement Plan

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Today (Wednesday 31 January), there has been national coverage of the Government’s package of announcements to boost nature recovery, marking one year since the Environmental Improvement Plan in the i, The Guardian and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

These announcements mark another important step forward for nature, building upon progress already made through the Environmental Improvement Plan, as the government has already delivered more than 50 commitments set out in the plan and the Environment Act.

The measures announced include the permanent closure of the sandeel fisheries in English waters of the North Sea from April, 13 new Marine Protected Areas with restrictions on damaging bottom trawling and a new framework for national parks and protected areas to help them better deliver for nature.

This additional protection for sandeels will help to safeguard an important food source for marine mammals and seabirds, such as puffins and the harbour porpoise. This comes alongside the announcement that 13 new MPAs will be created to protect the habitats of our marine animals.

The Protected Landscapes Outcomes Framework will help pave the way for ambition for England’s 44 Protected Landscapes to contribute to national environment targets, such as the goal to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030.

The government also announced the recipients a combined £7 million, funded by the Nature for Climate Fund, for 34 projects which will restore lowland peat to help in the effort to deliver on our Net Zero goals and provide environmental co-benefits.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:   

We’ve made a lot of progress since we launched the Environmental Improvement Plan – we’ve planted nearly 5 million trees, improved public access to our beautiful countryside and accelerated the adoption of our world-leading farming schemes.

We are building on this progress with a new package to safeguard our marine ecosystems and bring us one step closer to achieving our 30by30 target, both on land and sea.

Protecting the environment is fundamental to the prosperity of our country and our new commitments will drive forward our mission to create a cleaner and greener country for all.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said: 

Restoring thriving ecosystems is a vital process, not only for meeting our national Nature recovery goals, but also for our food and water security, wellbeing and economic prosperity.

The measures set out by the government today will take us closer to meeting our ambitious 2030 targets, both on land and at sea. Natural England has played a key role over the last year delivering the commitments set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan and we look forward to continuing to work in close partnership with government to accelerate delivery on the ground.

Beccy Speight chief executive of the RSPB said:

Answering the RSPB’s call to end industrial Sandeel fishing, today’s announcement is a vital lifeline from our Government for our seabirds when they need it most. The UK is home to globally important seabird colonies, but these populations are at the forefront of the nature and climate emergency and are in significant decline, with their resilience being pushed to the limit.

To support the recovery of our seabirds, the RSPB has long recommended an end to industrial Sandeel fishing in UK waters to secure vital food sources for these amazing birds. A call that has been passionately backed by tens of thousands of our members and supporters when Defra launched a public consultation on the issue. Halting wildlife decline and putting nature on the path to recovery must be supported by a programme of Government actions and today’s announcement represents one of those jigsaw pieces, along with demonstrating that overwhelmingly the public supports these actions that enable nature’s recovery.

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