Wildcats and Eagles set to return to England?

Some of our long-lost species, including beavers, wildcats, golden eagles could make a return to our countryside, alongside some in decline such as pine marten, dormice, corncrake and large blue butterfly.

After an announcement by the Environment Secretary George Eustice MP, Natural England is set to establish a species reintroductions task force, alongside habitat restoration and greening of urban spaces to meet new legally binding biodiversity targets to reverse the decline of wildlife.

Natural England will be heading up the task force as secretariat, considering the reintroduction of species which have been lost to England and the introduction of declining species into new areas to help populations recover and will make up part of the Nature Recovery Network (NRN). It will bring together experts, landowners and NGOs to share knowledge, assess and prioritise species for reintroduction and to develop partnerships for delivering high quality projects.

Natural England chair Tony Juniper, said: “A new target for nature recovery enshrined in law will be a powerful driver for coordinated action, as was found on cutting greenhouse gas emissions following the passage of the Climate Change Act.

“Meeting a stretching nature target can be done, so long as we can join up different policy areas, such as farming, housing development and infrastructure, while also improving overall environmental quality in terms of air and water pollution.”

However, Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner offered some words of caution: “George Eustice, has signalled opportunities for the reintroduction of a range of species including beavers, wildcats and golden eagles.

“The draw of bringing back animals that have become extinct in the English countryside is undeniable but the question has to be asked whether the focus on a few species which are not currently present is the right response to the decline of so many that are.

“Rewilding advocates use a telling description of the sort of wild animals they want to reintroduce – charismatic megafauna – which can be simply translated into ‘big animals we like to look at’. The focus of reintroduction campaigns is therefore nearly always on animals such as beavers, lynx, eagles and wolves. The case for their return to the countryside is pursued relentlessly and the focus on ‘charismatic’ animals seems to be an effective fundraising strategy.

“This is not to say that such reintroductions cannot be positive. Red kites and wild boar have been reintroduced to the English countryside where there is also surely space for beavers, eagles and perhaps lynx. Wolves might be a step too far on our crowded island but all reintroductions should be carefully considered and have the support of local communities.

“The government undoubtedly has good intentions in promoting the reintroduction of some species and is clearly tapping into a public desire for their return. Ministers must be certain, however, that they do not tread on the curlew’s nest as they gaze at the vulture.”

The Environment Secretary also unveiled the England Peat Action Plan and Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme, benefiting people and wildlife by increasing, improving and joining-up wildlife-rich places across England. This will be supported by more than £50 million between 2021 and 2025.

The Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme programme, to be administered by Natural England, will offer multi-annual grants which will encourage and enable partnerships to develop much more ambitious and extensive proposals to restore the integrity and quality of peat systems across large landscape areas.

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