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New proposals spark fresh fears for wildlife
DORSET Wildlife Trust is warning that changes to the Common Agricultural Policy will stifle Dorset wildlife.
It warns proposals being discussed between the EU commission, MEPs and agricultural ministers could unravel years of improved biodiversity.
Forty per cent of Dorset is within designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with 85 per cent of it under active agricultural management.
This idyllic countryside, with its national and internationally-important flora and fauna, could be at risk, it says.
That’s because the principle that 30 per cent of direct payments should be focused on the environment has been undermined by a host of compromises, says the trust.
Debbie Watkins, manager of the West Dorset Living Landscape team at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “Dorset Wildlife Trust is trying to influence new agri-environmental, greening, and rural development plans in a bid to secure the best deal for biodiversity and the environment from very constrained resources.
“There is still a lot more negotiation to come and we will continue to engage at this level for a while longer, for the benefit of Dorset wildlife.”
Here in the south west there are one of the greatest numbers of hedgerows, some of which can support up to 750 species of invertebrates, she said.
Alongside field margins, hedgerows might soon be credited as EFAs by farmers looking to qualify for CAP ‘greening’ payments.
Ms Watkins added: “With a reduction in the percentage of land needed to qualify for this greening payment, our hedges – acting as vital wildlife corridors – are under threat from continuing their function as a means of protecting and dispersing diverse species in an otherwise fractured landscape.
“The CAP reform could unravel 20 years of wildlife enriching work undertaken by farmers and landowners and may have a negative impact on the wildlife that thrives in these corridors of agriculturally managed ecosystems.”
The Wildlife Trusts believe that the UK government will be able to use the flexibility that the CAP reform has provided for member states in order to maximise positive outcomes for the environment.
Paul Wilkinson, head of living landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Because of the flexibility that will be afforded to member states in the way they deliver greening measures, there is still an opportunity for the UK to adopt an approach that is more robust than the extremely disappointing basic measures agreed.
“We recognise Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s stated commitment to improve the natural environment and call on him to ensure that the value for nature of Ecological Focus Areas and the other greening measures is maximised and to commit to supporting strategic planning of these areas across the farmed landscape. We need to see these areas linked in a coherent way to well-funded new agri-environment schemes.”
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