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A campaign to protect European laws that are crucial for the protection of some of the most important wildlife sites and species in the UK has been launched today by a coalition of 100 organisations, including Friends of the Earth.

The groups - which include the RSPB, the Marine Conservation Society, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Wildlife Trusts - are urging members of the public to take action to defend EU directives on birds and habitats, which are currently under review, as part of an EU deregulation drive.

The directives offer legal protection to nature sites by, for example, steering development to alternative locations. This network of protected sites, known as Natura 2000, is described by the European Commission as the “centrepiece of EU nature and biodiversity policy.” The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. 

Some of the UK’s best loved sites are protected in this way, including Cannock Chase, Flamborough Head, Dartmoor and Snowdonia. Across Europe many of the special places protected by these laws are famous throughout the world – including the wetlands of the Doñana National Park in Spain which is home to flamingos and imperial eagles. 

The laws also help safeguard a specific list of more than 1,400 rare or threatened species in Europe by restricting harmful activities such as hunting and insensitive development. The European rules have been instrumental in the recovery of some iconic species, such as the bittern.

Friends of the Earth is urging members of the public to respond to the European Commission’s public consultation by taking an online action.

Friends of the Earth nature campaigner Sandra Bell said:

“Crucial rules that defend many of the UK’s unique and irreplaceable species and wildlife sites are under threat.

“Our natural environment is vital to both our wellbeing and our economy – the EU should be strengthening its protection, not watering it down.

“With nature in decline across Europe we must send a loud and clear message to the European Commission that these crucial laws mustn’t be weakened.”


Notes to editors
1. Members of the public can take the action on Friends of the Earth’s website.
2. Friends of the Earth is working as a coalition of 100 UK NGOs, including RSPB, the Marine Conservation Society, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Wildlife Trusts, to defend the directives and collectively submitted a response to the European Commission’s consultation on the review of the Nature Directives. Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland is also working with its partners in Friends of the Earth Europe, Birdlife, EEB and WWF to coordinate a EU wide defence of the directives. The action launched today will be promoted across 28 European countries in 31 languages.
3. The laws protecting our most important nature sites and wildlife species (the Birds and Habitats Directives) are under threat as part of a review of regulation by the European Commission, called the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). The review started in January 2015 but the public consultation was launched at the end of May, and will be the only opportunity for EU citizens to be formally involved in the process. Previous reviews of the directives at UK and EU level have found them not to be a burden on business.
4. The Birds and Habitats Directives (often known as the Nature Directives) provide the foundation of nature protection across the EU. They ensure that the most important places for nature in Europe  are identified and given legal protection (by being made Natura 2000 sites), and they set out requirements to restore and manage these vital wildlife habitats. These laws also offer vital protection to more than 1,400 rare or threatened species of animals and plants by ensuring they are protected in these Natura 2000 sites and in the wider countryside. 
5. In the UK some of our best loved sites (known as Special Areas of Conservation) are protected by these laws, from Cannock Chase to Flamborough Head, and from Dartmoor to Snowdonia.  Across Europe many of the special places protected by these laws are famous throughout the world – the wetlands of the Doñana National Park in Spain home to flamingos and imperial eagles, the lakes and marshes of the Danube Delta in Romania, home to pelicans and white tailed eagles, and ancient beech forests in Bavaria to name just a few.
6. The Nature Directives have been instrumental in the recovery of several iconic native EU species including Bittern, Grey Wolf and Iberian Lynx.
7. Scientists carrying out research for Friends of the Earth found that the Nature Directives are protecting important remaining areas of bee habitat – the sea-aster mining bee, for example, is now dependent upon protected saltmarsh habitat on the east coast of England.
8. The species and places protected by the Nature Directives are each unique and irreplaceable and deserve to be protected for their intrinsic value.  Nature is also good for us: wetlands help protect us from floods, well managed forests help tackle climate change, provide timber and support nature, and regular time spent in nature is important for our health and wellbeing.  Increasingly economists and businesses are also recognising that a healthy and sustainable economy is dependent on our looking after nature

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust