21 February 2000
‘Farming the biggest threat to wildlife’

By FWi staff

FARMING is the biggest cause of damage to the UKs finest wildlife areas, claims Friends of the Earth.

The environmental pressure group says bad farming practice has resulted in more than one thousand incidents of damage to some 650 of the governments Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

It says existing agri-environmental schemes are badly targeted and under-funded, resulting in more than a third of English SSSIs being in bad condition and lacking positive management.

While welcoming government plans for a Countryside Bill which will beef up SSSI protection, FoE calls for more funding for SSSI management.

And the group insists the way payments are made must be reviewed to ensure regulations work in practice.

FoEs Matt Phillips said: “Right now we have a wildlife policy where everyone loses

“Wildlife loses because sites continue to be damaged. Farmers lose because they cant make ends meet. Taxpayers lose because they foot the bill for destructive rather than sustainable farming.

“The new Countryside Bill will help a lot, but Browns Nick and Gordon must make their contribution by finding new money and new ways of supporting farmers to protect and manage our finest wildlife areas.

“Both farmers and wildlife need a new and fair deal.”

SSSIs the group claims are severely damaged by agriculture include: Offham Down in Sussex, Gwaum cwn Cownwy in Powys, and Southmoor Farm in Devon.

The Countryside Bill is due to be debated later this month, though it is thought the date may slip by a few days.