Scottish Land & Estates today called for unprecedented partnership-working with farmers to help halt the decline in biodiversity.
The landowners’ organisation said that European directives to protect and improve biodiversity cannot on their own safeguard particular species and habitats.
Following a conference on the fitness of EU nature legislation held in Brussels last week, Anne Gray Environment Policy Officer at Scottish Land & Estates said: “The directives aim to protect and improve biodiversity (or nature) across Europe and mainly focus on protecting particular species and habitats. With nature still in decline however, it is clear that this approach alone may not be enough. The EU is perhaps waking up to the reality that far from agriculture being the enemy of nature, it is farmers that hold the key to reversing the decline. It is time to work with farmers.
“What we’d like to see is the EU ensuring all of their policies work in concert with each other rather than, as is sometimes the case at the moment, develop policies that have conflicting aims. By finding an appropriate balance and coherence between the Common Agricultural Policy and Nature policies, and by ensuring member states implement the policies in a way that embraces this approach, it would make it far easier for farmers on the ground to do the right thing for nature. This is vital.
“Funding is also vital and it was acknowledged at the conference that this is the biggest barrier to effective nature conservation. While simple changes of practice that costs little or nothing to implement do exist, in many cases farmers are being asked to do things for nature that hit them in the pocket. Where this is the case, compensation has to be offered.
“In short, nature conservation needs to escape the confines of protected areas and happen across the countryside. If this is to work landowners, managers and farmers need joined up policy to ensure they have a fighting chance of delivering the best value from funding and incentives.”