3 June 2011
DEFRA says 'Nature is worth £ billions to UK economy'
Parks, lakes, forests and wildlife are worth billions of pounds to the UK economy, says a major report that could change planning policy.
Read the full story in the BBC's website.
2 June 2011
Rare wildlife threatened by high speed rail
Bechstein's bats, one of Britain's rarest mammals, are living in ancient woods either side of the proposed HS2 (high speed rail) route in north Buckinghamshire.
"If the HS2 route rips through this area of Bernwood it will destroy another important wildlife site," says Philippa Lyons, Chief Executive of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.
"The Government hasn't considered the route's devastating impact on wildlife at all, which is astounding when you consider the scale of the HS2 development. If HS2 Ltd had done a proper environmental assessment, they would be aware of all the wildlife that will be affected."
Bechstein's bats, and their roosting and maternity sites, are protected under EU and UK wildlife laws. As a European Protected Species and UK Biodiversity Action Plan species, they have the highest possible level of statutory wildlife protection in the UK.
"This means that it's against the law to damage, destroy or obstruct their habitats and roosts," said Philippa Lyons. "The proposed HS2 route could have a severe impact on the ability of the bats to breed, and might even lead to the extinction of this local population.
"HS2 must be halted and a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment carried out before any decisions on the route are made. We are not convinced that the Government is taking its responsibilities for the environment and wildlife seriously," she added.
More than 50 designated wildlife sites in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire are likely to be directly impacted by the HS2 route. Ancient woodlands, tranquil meadows and valuable wetlands could be destroyed, breaking up the habitats for butterflies, wildflowers, birds and animals, including bats.
Volunteers from the North Bucks Bat Group are taking part in a four-year national project to survey Bechstein's bats. During May several female Bechstein's bats were found in woodlands including Finemere Wood, a Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Bat Group believes that these bats are likely to be part of a large breeding group.
A further group of adult female Bechstein's bats with their young were found last year in one wood, and a group of adult males were found in another wood on the other side of the proposed HS2 route. Taken together with the recent discovery of female Bechstein's bats at Finemere Wood, this creates a Bechstein's bat 'hotspot'.
Matt Dodds of the North Bucks Bat Group says: "Until last year's find, Bechstein's bats had never been recorded this far north-east in England, and their discovery was a big surprise.
"We don't yet know how far this population is distributed, but local landowners are really supportive and keen for us to investigate this further. The ancient woodland and habitat links between them in the Bernwood Biodiversity Opportunity Area must be protected for the Bechstein's bats to survive."
Photo of Bechstein's bat © 2011 Toby Thorne from the North Bucks Bat Group.