Thank you for contacting me about our upland areas.
I would like to assure you that I am committed to protecting our uplands, the wildlife that thrives there, and its flourishing communities. I believe our mountains, moors, hills and valleys are an essential part of this country’s natural heritage and as you rightfully mention in your email, we must do our absolute best to preserve these precious and unique landscapes.
Restoring nature and our beautiful countryside is crucial, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has committed to protecting 30 per cent of the UK’s land by 2030. In fact, he will be making nature a key focus of the United Kingdom’s contribution to the COP26 summit. On top of this, the Environment Bill has been amended in the House of Lords to require an historic, new legally binding target on species abundance for 2030 with the aim of halting the decline of biodiversity in England.
As you may know, the UK is moving towards a new agricultural system that will reward farmers and land managers for all the work that they do to enhance the environment. The environmental land management schemes being introduced will help pay for sustainable farming practices, the creation and restoration of natural habitats, natural flood management, species management, and making landscape-scale environmental changes. I know that our uplands offer rich opportunities for the provision of environmental public goods and will be well placed to participate in these schemes.
For example, peatlands are our biggest terrestrial carbon store and I welcome that Ministers have published an England Peat Plan which provides an ambitious framework to improve the management of these areas by the end of this Parliament and help to restore 35,000ha of peatland. Alongside this, an ambitious Trees Action Plan sets out a long-term vision for the planting and management of woodlands. These plans are underpinned by the £640 million Nature for Climate Fund which will support a trebling of tree planting across England, especially our most Northern regions. I particularly welcome the government’s continuing support for the creation of a Northern Forest. This project will create thousands of new jobs, reduce the risk of flooding and lock up thousands of tonnes of carbon to fight climate change.
Finally, I wish to assure you that all wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and there are strong penalties in place for offences committed against birds of prey and other wildlife, with most wildlife crimes carrying up to an unlimited fine and/or a six-month custodial sentence. At present, the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) is working alongside the National Wildlife Crime Unit to consider what action should be taken to prevent crime, gather intelligence on offences and enforce restrictions.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. I hope this email reassures you about the Government’s commitment to preserving our uplands, as well as supporting those that seek to make them a more vibrant and prosperous place to live.