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Living, Country, Knowledge

BBOWT Urges Public To Vote For Nature

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A local nature charity has published a list of urgent priorities for all would-be MPs to sign up to ahead of this year's general election, as it fights to put nature at the heart of the upcoming campaign.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is calling on local voters to ask their candidates to share the targets – bringing back lost wildlife, ending river pollution and water scarcity, funding wildlife-friendly farming, enabling healthy communities and tackling climate change.

The charity has also published a series of videos on YouTube in which staff explain how their work is battling the nature and climate crisis and urge viewers to vote for nature.

The campaign comes after 2023 was declared the hottest year on record and September’s State of Nature report concluded that one in six species in the UK was at risk of extinction in the country. Legislation that protects the natural world is also being dismantled and watered down.

The upcoming general election will make 2024 a defining year for nature’s recovery, as the next Government will determine whether the 2030 targets of halting nature’s decline and protecting 30% of land and sea are met or not.

Estelle Bailey, Chief Executive of BBOWT, said: "We are facing a nature and climate crisis the likes of which we have never seen, it's getting worse, and time is running out. We are already seeing the effects of climate change on mammals, birds, butterflies and plants at the nature reserves that we manage for wildlife in these three counties, and that's adding to decades of destructive pressure from pollution, unsustainable development destroying habitats and industrial agriculture.

"What happens at this year's General Election could not be more crucial: whichever party wins could seal the fate of our turtle doves, tortoiseshell butterflies, dormice, hedgehogs and hundreds more species - but whatever they do for nature will also have a huge effect on our wellbeing, our physical and mental health. Whatever way you vote this year, please - ask your candidates to sign up to our five priorities and vote for nature."

BBOWT is already tackling all five priorities, demonstrating how local action can help the nature and climate crisis:

1. Bring back the UK's lost wildlife: The population of water voles in the UK has declined by 90 per cent since the 1970s, but BBOWT's Water Vole Recovery Project has helped to increase the local range of water voles by more than 50 per cent over the past 15 years.

2. End river pollution and water scarcity: Chalk streams are one of the world's rarest habitats with only around 250 left and 80 per cent of those in southern England, but they are under growing threat of having water abstracted and sewage pumped in. Last year BBOWT joined a Wildlife Trusts’ campaign calling on Government to create new bespoke legal protections for these habitats.

3. Fund wildlife-friendly farming: Industrial agriculture has caused huge damage to UK wildlife by replacing mixed habitat with vast monoculture crops, killing animals with pesticides and leaking fertilisers into natural environments. BBOWT works with farmers across the three counties who prove that wildlife-friendly farming is possible and profitable.

4. Enable healthy communities: Spending time in nature has been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone levels and ease anxiety, but growing numbers of people are disconnected from nature. BBOWT works with urban communities in Bicester, Banbury, Slough and Reading to help people and nature thrive together.

5. Tackle the climate emergency: BBOWT recently completed a £2 million project at its Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve in Oxfordshire, digging a new channel of the River Thames that has created an enhanced floodplain habitat. These fields are not only storing more floodwater, reducing the risk of damage to towns and villages downstream, they are also able to store more carbon than other habitats.

BBOWT has issued its five election priorities in partnership with all the other Wildlife Trusts across the UK. Find out more at bbowt.org.uk/election-2024

The Trust also last year launched its biggest-ever appeal, the Nature Recovery Fund, aiming to raise £3 million in three years to support all its work tackling the nature and climate crisis locally. Find out more at bbowt.org.uk/nature-recovery-fund

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