West Dorset Landscape © Tony Bates
Wild plants and animals could disappear from Dorset’s landscape if the Prime Minister, David Cameron, fails to prioritise the environment when making key decisions on how to spend £15billion of public money.
The Government will soon announce how much money will be available for farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy. They will decide whether funding will be handed over as income support via direct payments, with few environmental strings attached, or given to farmers who carry out environmentally friendly practices outlined in the voluntary Rural Development Programme.
West Dorset Area Manager for Dorset Wildlife Trust, Debbie Watkins said, “The Rural Development programme supports our precious wildlife and landscape, and the rural economy brings benefits to our health and well-being. The question on everybody’s minds is how much money will be transferred from direct payments to the Rural Development Programme in support of environmental land management practices. The maximum that can be transferred is 15% with some favouring much less, describing it as an increase towards environmental payments and suggesting that this would be a tax on English farmers. Quite simply this should not be described as an increase in funding as it will in real terms amount to a reduction in available funding. Nor should this be described as a tax on farmers as many farmers are in receipt of such funds through environmental stewardship schemes.”
Average Dorset family paying £400
The average family in Dorset pays an estimated £400 a year towards the Common Agricultural Policy. Dorset Wildlife Trust recommends that this money should be spent on a rural environment that supports a wildlife-rich farmed landscape where hedgerows, clean rivers and our much-loved wild plants and animals co-exist with sustainable food production.
Our disappearing nature
In May this year, The State of Nature report revealed that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades and more than one in ten of all species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. In Dorset alone we have seen the loss of 116 ha of priority habitat since 2005.
Calls for Cameron to help
It is now vital that David Cameron commits to transferring 15% of the direct payment budget if the state of nature in Dorset is to improve, and most importantly to support those farmers who already work extremely hard to ensure their farms not only produce quality food but in doing so secure benefits for a healthy countryside.
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
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Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.