Thank you to all constituents who have contacted me about hedgehogs.
The hedgehog is an extraordinary creature with a long and celebrated history in this country. I am pleased that these creatures are currently protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 from being killed using prohibited methods such as crossbows, traps and snares.
The Environment Bill contains measures that will help improve the status of threatened species. This includes a requirement to set at least one long-term, legally binding target in relation to biodiversity, as well as strengthening the duty on public authorities to take action to conserve and enhance biodiversity. Ministers are also acting, through net gain provisions in the Bill, to support the role of new development in helping protect and create the habitat that our native species, including hedgehogs, need to thrive. Further, Ministers will be amending the Bill in the House of Lords to require a historic, new legally binding target on species abundance for 2030 with the aim of halting the decline of nature in England.
Ministers will also consult with the new Office for Environmental Protection, and work with conservation groups on any proposals they develop before any regulatory changes are made on environmental reform. In addition, later this year, a Green Paper will be brought forward setting out plans to deliver a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose, including the objective of protecting 30 percent of terrestrial land by 2030. A revised approach is needed to deliver this new species abundance target and better support iconic and much-loved native species like the hedgehog.
Further, the Government is working to determine the specific actions that will reward farmers and land managers under the new environmental land management schemes. These could include creating, managing and restoring habitats such as woodland, heathland and species-rich grassland, which could all benefit species such as hedgehog.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act sets out a legal duty for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to undertake a review every five years to determine whether any further species warrant inclusion as a protected species under the legislation. The data-gathering phase of this year’s review will run until 7th July 2021 and through this process Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are able to propose additional endangered species for inclusion on the schedules, propose species for removal from the schedules, and/or propose a change in protection status of a species on the schedules. It is worth noting that any proposal submitted must include evidence that an endangered species would actually benefit from the additional protection and increase its chances of survival. This could include evidence that the endangered species is currently subject to intentional or reckless harm.
Once the data-gathering phase of the review has taken place, interested organisations and individuals will then be invited to comment on amendments to the list through a formal consultation phase in the autumn. Following this phase, recommendations will be provided to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the devolved administrations in Great Britain for changes to the schedules. I understand that the Secretary of State will consider these recommendations and lay this advice before Parliament, which I look forward to being able to review.