Brexit, why remaining in the EU is vital for UK wildlife and conservation

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EU directives have been vital in protecting and enabling the recovery of wildlife in the UK.  For example, the Natura 2000 network of specially protected sites has lead to 18% of the EU’s land area now being protected, of which half of that area has no other protection.  Under national laws alone, these sited would be unprotected.

In the UK, as well as creating new levels of protection, the EU directives have helped to strengthen many of the regulation that were already in place. For example, before the directives, 10-15% of sites of special scientific interest were damaged every year.  However, with the aid of the EU, this fell to 2-3%.

Much of the wildlife of the UK has benefited tremendously, for example recent studies have shown that birds protected by EU directives have fared better than those which are not. Conservation measures, such as species re-introductions have allowed for several species to make dramatic come backs, thanks to the EU.

Other than wildlife, EU legislation is credited with a plethora of other environmental improvements, helping curb acid rain, reducing air pollution, and cutting vehicle emissions.

The lead campaigner of the leave campaign, Boris Johnson, is clearly not convinced with the benefits of the EU, however his father does not feel the same way. Stanley Johnson has a long history of involvement with environmental issues. Mr Johnson is adamant there are many issues which can only be tackled at EU level.

“I personally believe that our country’s greatest resource – its nature – will be better protected and better preserved for future generations if we remain an active, full, partner within Europe.”

Mr Johnson believes that many of the measures we have used to protect wildlife in the UK, have come about as a result of being in the EU. The prime minister, David Cameron has the same views, believing directives created to ensure the diversity of our countryside and wildlife, are better maintained and implemented from within the EU.

“EU membership underpins many crucial environmental protections in the UK, while amplifying our voice in the world on vital issues like cutting global emissions,” Cameron said.

The RSPB and WWF feel the same way about the importance of remaining within the EU, and are urging their 1.7 million supporters to vote to stay in the EU.

In a joint article the two charities say that leaving the EU would leave to years of uncertainty, and that remaining in the EU is a much safer option for our wildlife and environment.  As the movement and migration of wildlife transcend national boundaries, the cross-border cooperation and international standards are needed to enable them to be effective.

It cannot be denied that the UK’s membership within the EU has benefited nature and the environment on levels which would be difficult to maintain if we left. The importance of the future for our most precious wildlife and the places they call home is vital. I believe it is pretty obvious when considering all the evidence that it can be concluded that it would be best for the wildlife and conservation to stay within the EU.

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Ben Wright

Ben Wright

I am a consultant ecologist with a special interest in protected species and birds. I have some past experience in science writing. I formally wrote a science column for a local paper, and composed a book based on the column (Science Matters) which has just been published.

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