Landowners Urge Environment Secretary to Stick to Rewilding Pledges | Re-wild


The head of Natural England and the chairman of England’s largest landowner organization are to meet the new environment secretary to urge him not to cut or water down rewilding schemes.

Tony Juniper, who will meet Ranil Jayawardena with CLA President Mark Tufnell on Tuesday, pointed out that prime tracts of land were being used for golf courses, housing and other infrastructure, but the political focus was put on the small amount that would be reseeded.

There were fears that the new government would roll back nature recovery programs introduced by the previous administration, in which landowners and farmers are paid to improve nature.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg reportedly pushed back on those plans, while Jayawardena announced his new role by visiting an intensive chicken farm and mentioned nature little, focusing instead on food security.

Speaking at the Gathering nature festival at Wild Ken Hill in North Norfolk, Juniper said: “Some of [this prime land] is under the golf courses so it’s not just nature and stuff.

He said that in addition to food security, “we also need to capture carbon, we also need to avoid flood risks. We also need places to enjoy the outdoors and healthy recreation, we need land for biodiversity and nature recovery, you need land for water infrastructure and housing.

“There are probably more homes on high agricultural value land than there are reseeding projects. And all of that has to be on the table at the same time.

Tufnell, whose organization represents 33,000 landowners, added that he hopes the new administration will listen to them and realize that nature restoration is the future.

He said: ‘We are meeting the Secretary of State on Tuesday and I will be asking the same questions that we discussed this morning. We need to accelerate the environmental management of land and we need to see a recovery of nature. This is a totally false narrative that you can have food or you can have nature. You have to have both, and it is perfectly possible.

Some at the event feared the government was trying to cut the plans. Lee Schofield, senior site manager at RSPB Haweswater, said: ‘I’m very worried so I don’t know what else to say. It’s terrifying. And we just have to hope that whatever they might try to put in place doesn’t go through the checks and balances that are in place to prevent us from going back.

Some conservationists are more optimistic about the prospect of nature restoration as they believe Liz Truss’ government may not be around for long – so it may not be able to cause much damage to projects, even if he wanted to.

Jake Fiennes, conservation manager at Holkham National Nature Reserve and author of Land Healer, said: “We have a government that will potentially only be in place for 18 months. We started this ball. There is environmental restoration already in place that is happening. I think we’re actually on a trajectory, and I think that momentum isn’t going to stop.

Others agree; Benedict Macdonald, who works with landowners to reclaim with the Real Wild Estates Company, said his clients disagreed with government figures’ anti-nature comments.

He said: “The backlash against this government, especially from landowners and farmers, will come from them saying, ‘Why are you stopping me from doing better things and passing on sustainable land to my children? ?’ And that’s a very powerful thing that I don’t think 18 months of government is going to sink.

Juniper said: “I see no reason why we should deviate from these policies at this time. I look forward to working with ministers to find the best ways forward in the months and years to come.


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