The government agency responsible for the protection of wildlife in England could not effectively fulfill its duties because it was cut “to the bone”, a report warned.
The Natural England 2020-21 report, produced by the union Prospect, warned that years of funding cuts and the feeling of being underpaid have left the government with a long way to go if it is to meet its wildlife conservation goals. Natural England is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and is responsible for the protection of the country’s most valuable habitats.
the report said: “Public awareness of the plight of biodiversity and the fragility of our landscapes has finally come to the fore, and Natural England is eager and full of ideas to move forward and make England a better place. But it is clear from developments in both funding, salaries and staffing that the government must meet the ambitions and challenges outlined in this report and not let the green recovery fizzle out if it is to drive the government forward and repair the damage it has done.
“Urgent, radical investment in Natural England is necessary as the Government is the principal expert, advisor, regulator, facilitator and advocate of England’s natural environment.
Since 2008, funding for Natural England has been cut by 165 million pounds ($219 million). However, the agency received a £15 million ($19.9 million) investment to hire 200 new staff, but the report warned that this was not enough.
“These funds have been used to address existing pressures on labour resources and NE (Natural England) has used these funds to hire over 200 new staff, including assistance with the implementation of environmental legislation currently being passed by Parliament,” the report said.
“However, the additional sum is a colloquial drop in the ocean. NE’s leadership itself knows that “this funding does not meet all the burdens, and more needs to be done in the coming years to put forward our arguments to realize more opportunities for NE to play its full role in restoring nature and connect more people to this goal”.
The Green Alliance also called for full funding for Natural England.
Belinda Gordon, Green Alliance Strategy Director, said on Newsday in Washington: “The government has taken positive steps over the past 70 years to reverse the catastrophic decline of nature in England, including the recent signing of the “Leaders Pledge for Nature” and the setting of new targets in environmental legislation.
“But these can only make a difference if they are properly funded, monitored and enforced. Natural England plays a crucial role in this. We want the government to support the positive steps it is taking to tackle the environmental crisis by providing adequate funding to environmental ministries and agencies.
Natural England insists that it is well placed to meet the government’s ambitious environmental goals.
Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England, said: “Natural England is here to restore and protect nature – by building a world-class natural recreation network, rebuilding resilient landscapes, restoring wildlife, combating climate change and allowing people to connect with nature in ways that benefit their health and wellbeing.
“Our employees do an extraordinary job in caring for nature, and we are committed to ensuring that they are fairly rewarded for their hard work. This government has set ambitious environmental targets and Natural England is well placed to meet these targets – but continuous and significant investment is required if we are to truly achieve our goal of leaving the environment in a better state than we found it”.