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Government unveils plans to restore 300,000 hectares of habitat across England

Christian Fernsby |
The Government has unveiled the next stages of its plan to reward farmers and landowners for actions which benefit the environment, supporting sustainable food production alongside vital nature recovery and work towards net zero.

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Topics: ENGLAND   

Two new environmental land management schemes will play an essential role in halting the decline in species by 2030, bringing up to 60% of England’s agricultural soil under sustainable management by 2030, and restoring up to 300,000 hectares of wildlife habitat by 2042.

The Local Nature Recovery scheme will pay farmers for locally-targeted actions which make space for nature in the farmed landscape and countryside such as creating wildlife habitat, planting trees or restoring peat and wetland areas. The Landscape Recovery scheme will support more radical changes to land-use change and habitat restoration such as establishing new nature reserves, restoring floodplains, or creating woodland and wetlands.

Taken together with the previously announced Sustainable Farming Incentive which supports sustainable farming practices, they are designed to provide farmers and land owners with a broad range of voluntary options from which they can choose the best for their business.

The reforms are the biggest changes to farming and land management in 50 years with more than 3,000 farmers already testing the new schemes.

Up to 15 projects will be selected in this first wave, focusing on two themes – recovering England’s threatened native species and restoring England’s rivers and streams.

These pilot projects alone are expected to deliver significant environmental benefits including:

• the creation of 10,000 hectares of restored wildlife habitat
• carbon savings between 25 to 50 kilotonnes per year – roughly equivalent to taking between 12,000 – 25,000 cars off the road
• improved status of around half (45-57%) of the most threatened species in England, including the Eurasian curlew, sand lizard and water vole

An early version of the Local Nature Recovery scheme will be trialled in 2023 with a full roll-out across the country from 2024.

By 2028, Government spending is expected to be evenly split across farm-level, locally tailored, and landscape-scale investment. All schemes will be designed to pay for public goods which go above and beyond regulatory baselines and the schemes won’t pay for the same actions twice.

All the environmental schemes will be voluntary and it will be for farmers to decide what combination of actions is right for them.

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