The UK government is in the process of changing the rules for property developers. At the moment, a range of wildlife from red squirrels, pine martens, mountain hares, water voles, adders and slow worms have special status.
Under the new plans they could loose this designation. Indeed, under this new legislation the bar would be raised as to which species get special status.
The documents that outline this change were posted to a less visited government site (on purpose? perhaps to get less attention) outline changes that are coming in this year. Now habitat of these species would only be protected if there was an “imminent risk of extinction”.
Currently the government uses the Union of Conservation of Nature and their standards, but this legislation would replace this expert advice with its on assessment (that of imminent extinction). The IUCN uses 9 categories, the government would drop all and move to merely having “at imminent risk of extinction”. Critically that would mean that a small change in the threat to a species would allow businesses to ignore any threat and wipe the animal out of existence.
It should be noted, that this also removes the ability to prevent species decline. Many species are only found in a small part of the UK, so a large project could wipe them out.
DEFRA the government body which deals with this stated that no changes have yet been made, and wont be until a consultation in the autumn. However, if these plans were used to decide conservation in other countries around the world we would instantly loose most tropical rainforests and places like the Serengeti.
This legislation is an embarrassment to the UK, it is a huge step back, and unless it is scrapped in full it will damage our standing on the world stage permanently. Whats more, this would be at a time when we need to be respected in this field as more and more ecosystems around the world come under threat.