Biggest ever nationwide initiative to restore nature in England

Biggest ever nationwide initiative to restore nature in England

In the first of its kind, an England-wide initiative will recover nature across the length and breadth of the country, and help everybody access and enjoy it. In East Anglia the NRN will focus on establishing a clear vision for restoring wetland habitats and species across the Fens and through this helping reduce carbon emissions from the peat and promoting carbon storage.

In the first of its kind, an England-wide initiative will recover nature across the length and breadth of the country, and help everybody access and enjoy it.

The Nature Recovery Network (NRN) Delivery Partnership, led by Natural England, will bring together representatives from over 600 organisations to drive forward the restoration of protected sites and landscapes and help provide at least 500,000 hectares of new wildlife-rich habitat across England. The Network will link together our very best nature-rich places, restore landscapes in towns and the countryside and create new habitats for everybody to enjoy. It is the biggest initiative to restore nature ever to be launched in England.

The partners, including the Council for Sustainable Business, Wildlife and Countryside Link, National Parks England, RSPB and the Country Land and Business Association, alongside Defra, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, will be providing a wide range of support including funding and land to be restored. Today Natural England is calling for even more organisations to be part of the initiative, organisations already giving their support include Coca-Cola, Network Rail and Severn Trent Water.

As well as making sure our existing protected sites are in the best possible condition, the Nature Recovery Network programme will recover threatened animal and plant species and create and connect new green and blue spaces such as wetlands, ponds, meadows, woodlands, and peatlands. It will engage conservation rangers and environmentally focused community-based projects and put lost features like hedgerows and trees back into our landscapes. These restored habitats will help address climate change through capturing carbon, while improving the quality of our air, water, and soil, and provide natural flood protection. They will also provide us all with places to enjoy and connect with nature and help to improve our health and wellbeing.

The Nature Recovery Network will:

· Restore 75% of protected sites to favourable condition so nature can thrive.

· Create or restore at least 500,000 additional hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected sites.

· Recover our threatened and iconic animal and plant species by providing more habitat and wildlife corridors to help species move in response to climate change.

· Support the planting of 180,000 hectares of woodland.

· Deliver a range of wider benefits, including carbon capture, flood management, clean water, pollination and recreation.

· Bring nature much closer to people, where they live, work, and play, boosting health and wellbeing.

As part of the Nature Recovery Network, the government is exploring the creation of large scale nature recovery areas to significantly expand wildlife habitat and deliver wide ranging benefits.

In the East of England, partners have a history of working together; establishing fantastic wetland creation projects such as Great Fen, Wicken Vision, Ouse Fen and South Lincolnshire Fens Partnership. The fens once contained England’s largest wetland habitat. But the landscape has been intensively farmed for centuries and, today, less than 1% of the original habitat remains. The Fens for the Future Partnership are committed to establishing an East Anglian Fens NRN.

The soils of the East Anglian Fens, both silts and peat, support highly important agriculture. By reviewing current practices of land management and farming systems and acting to adopt environmental and nature friendly systems, including new systems such as wet farming, will help move the land nearer to a restored state.

The NRN will see wetland restored, re-created and reconnected across the fens for the benefit of people, natural and historic heritage, as well as the rural and tourism economies.

Catherine Weightman from Natural England said:

“Our work will return the fens to its rightful place as one of England’s most valuable habitats. By working together – restoring natural processes, conserving nature, managing water, and developing sustainable and environmental friendly farming practices – we can recover the area’s wonderful biodiversity. As a result, the fens will provide better flood storage, retain the peatland soils essential for capturing climate-harming gases and offer a haven for wildlife whilst maintaining its really important contribution to food production.”

The work will support ambitions for the fens to become a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve – part of an international network of protected areas that balance the relationship between people and nature.

Professor Martin Price FRSE, vice-chair of the UK National Committee for UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, said:

“The Cambridgeshire Fens Biosphere would be a double-first for the UK, as it would be in the lowlands and primarily comprises agricultural land in a region of high conservation value. It would bring a new focus to the sustainable development of this important region, strengthening its regional identity and facilitating increased interactions between the many R&D organisations and other stakeholders – all key aims of the UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves. So I am very glad to support this initiative, which would greatly strengthen the UK’s network of Biosphere Reserves – and the world network as a whole.”

The Nature Recovery Network is a major commitment in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. It is underpinned by ‘Local Nature Recovery Strategies’ (LNRS), established through our landmark Environment Bill, which will provide the spatial mapping and planning tools to inform nature recovery. Additional funding of over £650m, including the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and Nature for Climate Fund will help drive the Nature Recovery Network forward.

Earlier this year, Natural England and Defra announced that five local authorities will receive a share of a £1 million fund to pilot how LNRS can drive the recovery of England’s landscapes and wildlife locally.

The Nature Recovery Network will also be key to England’s recovery from coronavirus. The Natural England people survey revealed that the nation’s gardens, parks, woodlands and rivers have played a huge part in helping maintain their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, with almost nine in ten adults in England reporting that access to nature boosts their mood.