UK nature conservation plan "insufficient"

More special areas of conservation should be submitted under habitats directive, says WWF

A UK government list of sites nominated to become "special areas of conservation" under the terms of the EU habitats directive is "woefully inadequate," pressure group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) UK claimed yesterday. The group employed specialists, including a former head of the government's official nature conservation agency, to draw up a "shadow list" of special areas of conservation (SACs), based on a selection of habitats and species listed in the directive. It concluded that about 1,000 sites ought to become SACs, whereas only 331 sites have been officially proposed. According to the group, the official list does not include all areas where listed species are found. It claims, in addition, that not all listed species found on some sites have been specified when the sites have been nominated. The result of this "minimalist approach," according to WWF UK, is that the UK has nominated just 2.8% of its land area under the habitats directive to contribute to the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected sites. "Comparable" countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, it says, have submitted sites covering 7-8% of their territories. The shadow list is part of a coordinated action by WWF groups around Europe. Earlier this year, WWF Austria said that 180 sites should have been nominated, compared with 113 in the government's list. WWF offices in Greece, Italy, France and Spain are in the process of preparing their own shadow lists.

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