Wildlife Trusts shift focus to ‘vast’ nature restoration projects

A leading wildlife charity is set to expand its estates and focus on connecting large scale habitats, with conservation alone “no longer enough”, according to a new strategy announced today.

An aerial view of the Newark Priory ruins and surrounding landscape, Surrey An aerial view of the Newark Priory ruins and surrounding landscape, Surrey. Photograph: Karl Hendon/Getty Images

The Wildlife Trusts, one of the UK’s largest wildlife charities, which owns nature reserves across the country, has published its Strategy 2030, which includes plans to have large, populated areas “butting up against large rewilded landscapes”, and to connect habitats on a vast scale.

The strategy announcement comes after the news that up to 40% of Earth’s land now classed as degraded, according to UN data released this week.

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, and The Wildlife Trusts says that by putting people “at the heart of vast nature restoration projects”, the decline of nature will not just be halted, but reversed.

READ MORE: Could DEFRA’s nature metric mask declines?

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The situation is dire and nature needs to be put in special measures - we must ramp up action as never before by triggering a decade of nature restoration. 

“Conservation of the wildlife and habitats that remain is no longer enough because what we’ve got left is so fragmented and diminished. In the past we’ve focused on preserving habitats and species - now we need to restore the abundance of nature, and with it, the ecosystem processes that’ll get nature working again.”

Bennett added that the charity would be working with all national governments and local authorities to ensure that the UK meets its commitment to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030. 

As an example of the kind of expansion the Trusts envisage, the charity said that in Gloucestershire it intends to put 69,000 hectares of the county into Nature Recovery Zones, around existing good habitat, and increase the size of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s estate by 50%. 

The charity added that it intends to create ‘Severn Treescapes’, which it described as a 60 mile, north-south woodland nature recovery corridor across Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire covering 1,728km2.

The Trusts have also announced plans for a ‘Severn Wildbelt’, where the charity will encourage communities to “allow land that is currently of low biodiversity value to be enhanced for nature with a series of connected wetlands on the floodplain to aid flood management, carbon capture and recreational space”. 

It also intends to create 5,000 hectares of new habitat by working with farmers and partners.

To fund this work, the charity acknowledges that a “step change” in the scale and diversity of the funding available for nature’s recovery will be needed.

The strategy document says that achieving this will require The Wildlife Trusts “to explore new partnerships and business models, new ways of working, and alternate sources of capital and financing”, and looks set to rely on developing new revenue streams through digital fundraising.  

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