New Regulations to Protect Wildlife Come into force
Certain wild birds will be afforded increased protection under the law as of tomorrow (Wednesday, 31 May) when new provisions under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act come into force.
The Act creates a new offence of taking, damaging or destroying the nests of certain wild birds at any time during the year. Biodiversity Minister, Barry Gardiner, said: "The wild birds protected under these new provisions are the golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and osprey.
"As the law currently stands, all birds' nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (the 1981 Act), but only while they are in use or are being built.
"Protecting the nests of these birds year round will greatly assist their long-term breeding success by protecting their nests outside their usual breeding season.
"Whilst the golden eagle and osprey are rare residents of England and Wales, it is increasingly likely that more breeding pairs will become resident, as they are all subject to re-introduction or re-establishment programmes, and there is every likelihood that the white-tailed eagle will extend its range into England in the near future."
Mr Gardiner also said that the Act contains further provisions introducing enhanced powers for wildlife inspectors and the Police under wildlife and conservation legislation to allow them to operate more effectively in protecting wildlife.
"By enhancing and widening the enforcement provisions already contained in the 1981 Act, and providing an extension to the time limit to bring about legal proceedings, we are ensuring that wildlife crime can be effectively investigated and that offenders can be prosecuted."
Welsh Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside, Carwyn Jones, said:
"Our rich and varied wildlife are an important part of our natural environment. These new laws will ensure our wildlife get greater protection so that they continue to thrive and can be enjoyed by future generations."
Two provisions relating to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) also come into force tomorrow.
All provisions take effect in England and Wales.
1. The NERC Act was granted Royal Assent on 30th March 2006. It delivers key elements of the Rural Strategy and is an essential part of Defra's Modernising Rural Delivery Programme. It establishes Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities as well as implementing a number of improvements to wildlife, habitat, national parks and rights of way legislation.
2. Section 47 creates a new offence of taking, damaging or destroying the nests of certain wild birds listed in a new Schedule (Schedule ZA1) to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (the "1981 Act") at any time during the year.
3. Schedule 5, introduced by section 52, provides enhanced powers for Wildlife Inspectors and the Police to allow them to operate more effectively in protecting wildlife. Part 1 of the Schedule incorporates enhancements to and widens existing enforcement provisions contained in the 1981 Act, whilst Part 2 extends similar powers to wildlife inspectors acting under four other Acts that deal with wildlife licensing and protection; the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932, the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, the Deer Act 1991, and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Part 3 provides the Secretary of State with the ability to issue codes of practice in connection with wildlife inspectors discharging their functions. Part 4 extends the powers of constables to obtain warrants under section 19(3) of the 1981 Act to the four other Acts mentioned above.
4. Schedule 6, introduced by section 53, brings the wildlife legislation detailed in the Schedule into line with Part 1 of the 1981 Act. It is extends the present requirement to bring summary proceedings for offences contained in that legislation within six months of the commission of the offence. Following this amendment, summary proceedings will have to be brought within six months of the acquisition of evidence sufficient in the prosecutor's opinion to warrant proceedings, and in any event within two years of the commission of the offence. This extension to the time limit will help ensure that wildlife crime can be effectively investigated and that offenders can be prosecuted.
5. Section 57 adds further protection for SSSIs where the relevant conservation body (for the time being in England, English Nature, but in future Natural England; in Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales) has failed to serve a notice on every owner or occupier of SSSI land, despite having taken all reasonable steps to do so. Section 56 makes a technical change to the power to denotify SSSIs (to enable land to be denotified where it is 'not' rather than 'no longer' of special interest).
6. Provisions being introduced tomorrow will provide powers that are crucial for ensuring that Natural England will legally be able to undertake the full range of functions within its remit (Part 8, chapter 1 and schedule 7). It will be used to authorise Natural England, from vesting day on 1 October 2006, to carry out activities currently carried out by the Rural Development Service on behalf of the Secretary of State. On vesting day the Rural Development Service, currently part of Defra, will become part of Natural England, a statutory NDPB.
7. The powers will also allow greater flexibility and efficiency in carrying out statutory functions among all Defra family bodies. As a better regulation tool it will, for instance, enable necessary inspection activities of different bodies to be brigaded and carried out more efficiently by a single delivery agent. Early commencement will ensure that this tool is available whenever the need arises for use by Defra and all designated bodies in the interests of better regulation and more efficient customer service.