The largest national nature restoration initiative in England is about to start

In the first of its kind, an England-wide initiative has been launched that will restore nature to the length and breadth of the country and help everyone access and enjoy it.

Natural England-led Nature Recovery Network (NRN) delivery partnership brings together representatives from over 600 organizations to promote the restoration of sanctuaries and landscapes and help create at least 500,000 acres of new wildlife habitat from door to door across England Providing front door scenery as set out in the government’s 25-year environmental plan. The network will connect our best natural spots, restore urban and rural landscapes, and create new habitats for everyone to enjoy. It is the largest nature restoration initiative ever 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, will work with Defra, the Environment Agency and the Forest Agency to provide a wide range of support, including funding and land to be restored. Today Natural England is calling for more organizations to join the initiative. Some of the organizations that have already given their support include Coca-Cola, Network Rail, and Severn Trent Water.

The Nature Recovery Network program not only ensures that our existing protected areas are in the best possible condition, but also restores endangered animal and plant species and creates and connects new green and blue spaces such as wetlands, ponds, meadows, forests and moors. It will involve conservation rangers and environmental projects at the community level, and bring lost features like hedges and trees back into our landscapes. These restored habitats will help fight climate change by capturing carbon, improve the quality of our air, water and soil, and provide natural flood protection. They will also provide all of us with places where we can enjoy and connect with nature and that will help improve our health and wellbeing.

Dartford Warbler, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries

The Nature Recovery Network will:

  • Restore 75% of the protected areas to favorable condition for nature to thrive.
  • Creation or restoration of at least 500,000 additional hectares of wildlife outside of protected areas.
  • Restore our threatened and iconic animal and plant species by providing more habitat and wildlife corridors to allow species to move in response to climate change.
  • Support the planting of 180,000 hectares of forest.
  • Offer a range of other benefits including carbon capture, flood management, clean water, pollination and recreation.
  • Bring nature closer to people where they live, work and play, thereby promoting health and wellbeing.

As part of the Nature Recovery Network, the government is exploring the creation of large nature reserves to significantly expand wildlife habitat and achieve far-reaching benefits. This visionary approach to nature restoration was recently demonstrated by Natural England with seven leading partners who designated the first “Super” National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve in Dorset. The Super NNR – as big as Blackpool – connects 11 types of priority habitats across the landscape and offers greater customization and thriving in the face of rare and diverse wildlife, including the sand lizard, Dartford warbler and the silver-studded blue butterfly current climate crisis. It also offers an enhanced experience for the 2.5 million people who visit Purbeck each year.

The ambitious plans were unveiled in a virtual conference where Chairman Tony Juniper and CEO Marian Spain urged even more organizations, corporations and charities to take action to deploy the Nature Recovery Network.

Tony Juniper, Chairman of Natural England, launched the Nature Recovery Network initiative and said: We are firing the go-ahead for the UK’s Nature Recovery Network, supported by the largest ever collaboration between government, business and charities to bring about the largest nature recovery program advance in the history of England. The natural world on which we all depend has been in decline for far too long, and now the time has come when we need to change our approach to not just preserving the little, but to begin restoring it on a large scale . Achieving nature restoration is a complex task that can only be realized through partnerships. These are needed to bring together the people who manage land and sea, the various sources of investment and knowledge we need to make progress, the variety of official guidelines we have, and the passion of the many leaders who there are ready to make the most of reinforce to deliver on-site action. Our vision is for this network of organizations and people to create a network of places that will bring tremendous benefits to wildlife, landscapes and people. It is an ambitious idea, but the fact is that it is already happening in different parts of the country and we should be very encouraged by it.

International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith also said at the event: Our country’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems are under threat, and this is true around the world. Last month, 75 Heads of State and Government signed up with the United Nations to support our Nature Leader’s ambitious pledge to bring nature and biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030. It is now our task to translate these words into meaningful measures. I am thrilled that we are partnering to deliver the largest conservation project in the history of England that will restore our depleted ecosystems and habitats while we continue to build greener.

On the launch of the partnership, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: Providing a nature restoration network is fundamental to achieving our goals for nature – improving the quality of our existing natural areas, restoring and creating new habitats, and linking them all together. Only with larger, better, and well-connected habitats can we restore our beloved species and tackle the biggest challenges we face – from climate change to mental health deterioration. We cannot deliver the Nature Recovery Network alone. We are providing new laws, tools and funding, but together we will provide the network of abundant wildlife places where nature and people can thrive

Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land and Business Association, said of the start of the partnership: As partners in the Nature Recovery Network Partnership, we recognize that there is no time to lose. The public can see the effects of biodiversity loss and climate change with their own eyes and rightly expects us to act. As land managers, landowners are uniquely able to deliver meaningful programs that advance environmental recovery and we are determined to do our part to address the challenges ahead.

Liz Lowe, Director of Sustainability at Coca-Cola UK, said of the launch of the partnership: We are delighted with the launch of the Nature Recovery Network, especially as this exciting new partnership will help more companies understand and play their role in actively restoring nature and to invest in them for the long term: Without thriving natural ecosystems, we cannot have thriving businesses and communities.

Emma Marsh, Director of RSPB England, said of the start of the partnership: This is a unique opportunity to gradually change the way we protect nature in England. The public wants that. The experience, skills and ambitions are there. We are all ready to do our part to create a game-rich country for the benefit of all. Together we can leave the natural world in a better condition than we inherited.

The Nature Recovery Network is a key commitment in the government’s 25-year environmental plan. It is underpinned by “Local Nature Recovery Strategies” (LNRS), which were established by our pioneering environmental law and which provide spatial mapping and planning tools for information about the restoration of nature. Additional funding of over £ 650 million, including the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and the Nature for Climate Fund, will help advance the Nature Recovery Network.

Earlier this year, Natural England and Defra announced that five local authorities will receive a £ 1 million share to test how LNRS can promote the restoration of England’s landscapes and local wildlife.

The Nature Recovery Network will also be key to recovering England from coronavirus. The survey of people in Natural England found that the country’s gardens, parks, forests and rivers played an important role in maintaining their sanity during the coronavirus pandemic. Almost nine out of ten adults in England said that being in contact with nature improved their mood.


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