Sometimes it’s hard to remember life before Covid-19 (coronavirus), even though it’s only been several weeks since all our lives changed unimaginably.

Now, our work/life is unbalanced, lockdown has altered how we connect with friends and family, and with everyone’s energy rightly focused on staying safe and caring for the most vulnerable in our community, it can be hard to know how to ensure that nature is being protected too.

Lough Foyle with cloud reflections by Andy Hay

Photo credit: Andy Hay

Your voice for nature

While there’s no denying this is one of the most challenging times in our history, we want you to know that your tireless campaigning to give nature a home in Northern Ireland is still helping to make a difference and support the development of crucial legislative work.

Northern Ireland, and the wider UK, remain one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, facing many threats including over-exploitation and habitat destruction. According to the State of Nature Report 2019, Northern Ireland has lost more wildlife than any other part of the UK, with our iconic species, like the puffin, now in decline.

We need the right policies in place if we want to protect and restore nature for future generations. Back in September 2019, nearly 500 of you supported our campaign calling for urgent political action, by responding to the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland: Public Discussion Document. A huge thank you!

Puffin on Rathlin Island by Hazel Watson

Photo credit: Hazel Watson

Making sure the Environment Strategy delivers for nature in NI

The Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ESNI) will provide a framework for coherent and effective interventions that can deliver real improvements to the quality of our environment and improve the health and wellbeing of everyone living here. Given the situation facing our natural world and the urgent need for these interventions, you joined us in asking for the following bold measures:

• Climate Change Act for Northern Ireland;
• Independent Environment Protection Agency;
• Nature recovery networks; and
• Public money to be used for public goods (such as clean air and water)

Thanks to the noise you made for nature, the views and ideas that we collectively submitted are now being reviewed by DAERA and will help to structure the forthcoming Environment Strategy.

East County Down farmland by Andy Hay

Photo credit: Andy Hay

A quick update

As the NI Assembly focuses on the urgent challenges facing our health and economy, we are using this time to continue to work with DAERA to ensure that the Environment Strategy effectively deals with the challenges facing nature in Northern Ireland, and is truly reflective of our collective scope and ambition.

When we emerge from this pandemic, nature will still need us fighting in its corner, and thanks to every email your sent and Tweet you shared, we have the power to keep environmental protection on the political agenda and a campaign to ensure the correct policies are in place to protect, enhance and restore nature in Northern Ireland.

Until then… Stay safe. Stay home. And let nature bring you some happiness during these difficult days ahead.

Photo credit: Ben Hall