I urged the council to submit a response to the controversial consultation via a written question at today’s cabinet meeting, which was answered by environment portfolioholder, Cllr Roger Croad.
Many Devon landscapes and wildlife, including parts of Dartmoor, the pebblebed heaths in East Devon and the Exe Estuary have benefited from the nature directives, and are now seeing threatened wildlife recovering, as a result of this powerful legal protection.
Unfortunately, big business seems to have put pressure on the EU to review these laws, with a view to weakening them. The UK government is also questioning the need for the directives, as some senior conservatives, including the chancellor, George Osborne, believe that they are a drag on economic growth.
Widespread and high profile campaigns have been launched by many environmental charities, such as the RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust, as a result.
My own view is that nature should be protected for its own sake. Why would we want to live in a world where nature becomes more and more sparse. Much of the joy of being alive is because of the abundance of beauty that wildlife and precious landscapes provide.
However if nature protection laws MUST be economically justified, then they can be. Mr Osborne’s short-sighted view does not take into account the tourism benefits that nature brings. The East Devon pebblebed heaths are a haven for the dartford warbler and nightjars, for example, which are now very rare.
This is just one example, the Exe Estuary and Dartmoor also support fragile eco-systems, that we must do all we can to protect if we don’t wish our children to live in a world where many of our once common birds and mammals have been all but driven to extinction by man’s selfish and blinkered pursuit of economic growth at all costs.
Devon County Council will hopefully be treated as a key consultee and the response given a high priority by the European Parliament.
Environment portfolio holder, Cllr Roger Croad said in reply to my question:
“The conservation and enhancement of Devon’s environment forms an integral element of this authority’s strategic plan vision.
“The importance of the EU nature legislation and the resulting network of protected sites and range of protected species has been consistently recognised by DCC and appropriately embedded into its environmental decision making.”
“On this basis a technical response to the consultation will be made by staff….. “
To give your view on how important the nature directives are, visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/campaignwithus/defendnature/?gclid=COL3nKeNhcYCFSnMtAodHVMAFA
Photograph: Ancient woodland at Fingle Bridge, Dartmoor – now owned by the Woodland Trust.