The following press release was issued today by RSPB in the South West today ...

“Biggest disaster for wildlife in the West Country in our lifetime”: This chilling statement is how the RSPB is describing the potential weakening of laws that have protected the region’s  wildlife since the late 1970s. The RSPB is today appealing to people across the West Country to help to defend these laws. This is part of a European wide campaign launched this week, co-ordinated by Birdlife Europe.

European leaders are considering weakening the laws that protect our most vulnerable wildlife and the homes (habitats) they depend on.  If these laws - called the Nature Directives – were weakened the RSPB says this would mean that that many of our most important areas for wildlife would be vulnerable to development and threatened species could be in even more trouble.  

The places at risk would include our magical estuaries that provide much needed ‘feeding stations’ for migratory birds on their epic journeys across the globe, our heathlands, our wetlands, our uplands and our majestic Atlantic oakwoods - all home to much rare and threatened wildlife.

The RSPB says that this could affect many natural places where people go on holiday, or picnic with family or go for a weekend walk with friends. Unpicking these laws would be catastrophic for all the wildlife that depends on these places.

Tony Whitehead speaking for the RSPB in the West Country says; “The Nature Directives are the bedrock of nature conservation in the West Country; providing the highest level of protection that any habitats or species currently have – and they work.

“Our region benefits hugely from the protection the directives provide, with significant places such as the Dorset Heaths, Poole Harbour, Salisbury Plain, Severn Estuary, Levels and Moors, South West Uplands, East Dartmoor Woodlands, Exe Estuary, Cornwall Coast, Isles of Scilly and the Jurassic Coast all designated under the directives as Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. Numerous scientific studies have shown the role they play in driving conservation success.

 “Despite this, the current political climate is hostile to any regulation in the European Union and there is a general desire to see it stripped away, regardless of the consequences. 

“Sadly, this includes the Nature Directives. Whilst the Directives may not be perfect, we believe it is critical that they are not opened up for revision. If they are, many European leaders will take the opportunity to weaken them.  If this were to happen, it would probably be the biggest disaster for wildlife in our lifetime.

 “Without a massive demonstration of public support for the Directives, it will be very hard to prevent them being weakened. The RSPB and our partners across Europe are aiming for the biggest ever response to an EU consultation - one that will leave European leaders in no doubt that the general public really cares about nature and won’t tolerate a weakening of its protection.”

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says; “If you enjoy the dawn chorus, full of blackbirds and robins, or the once in a lifetime glimpse of otters or bottlenose dolphins, or birds of prey circling overhead as you cycle through the countryside it’s important to remember that if it weren’t for the Nature Directives, you might not be enjoying these wonderful sights and sounds.

“At the moment, the laws to make sure these wonderful places are protected and remain special for wildlife work.

“But if they get weakened these safeguards would be lost with potentially catastrophic consequences for our already threatened wildlife.  Your time spent in the great outdoors could look, feel and sound very different.”

The RSPB is asking everyone to help intervene and convince European leaders to leave these laws as they are, and instead to focus on giving nature a home across the UK and Europe by putting them into practice. Please visit for more information.  

Follow all the latest RSPB South West news on Twitter via @RSPBSouthWest

  • What hope have we got with the current government hell bent on rolling out the badger cull and repealing the ban on fox hunting. I cannot understand why so many people voted conservative. They don't represent me or anyone I know who values wildlife.