On the 10th November 2015, as part of DEFRA’s Wildlife Law project, The Law Commission published its final report and an accompanying draft bill on the protection, control and management of wildlife and recommended that ‘the patchwork of existing legislation be replaced by a single statute’. The new statute will consolidate the existing legislation specifically with the intention of making law more consistent, easier to understand and simpler to use. In turn this will help people understand what their obligations and duties are in respect of wildlife, what they can and cannot do and what to expect should they break the rules.
Existing protections for wild animals, birds and plants are maintained within the Bill, but a statutory procedure for amending the schedules is introduced, allowing for more strategic management of species. The existing requirement for reviewing protected species lists every five years is extended to include all relevant lists. Ministers retain the power to make changes between reviews, but will be required to publish their reasons if they do not follow expert advice.
A reduction in the current dependency on criminal law is recommended by allowing an appropriate mix of regulatory measures such as guidance, advice and a varied flexible system of civil sanctions such as fines and bans. But the penalty for the most serious crimes will be extended from six months to two years in prison.
Earlier recommendations given by the Law Commission regarding invasive non-native species were published in a separate report (Wildlife Law – Control of Invasive Non-Native Species, 11th February 2014) and subsequently implemented through the Infrastructure Act 2015.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, defines an invasive non-native species as an animal or plant (including fungus) outside its native range, which is in turn defined as the locality to which it is indigenous. An invasive animal or plant is one of a type which, if not under the control of any person, would likely to have a significant adverse impact on biodiversity; other environmental interests; or social or economic interests.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, makes it an offence in England and Wales to release, or allow to escape into the wild any animal which:
- is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or
- is included in part 1 of schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
it is also an offence to plant or cause to grow in the wild any plant listed in part 2 of schedule 9 to the 1981 Act.
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
Prior to the Infrastructure Act there was no mechanism to compel an owner or occupier of premises or land to control invasive non-native species or to take control measures without an owner or occupiers consent. The Act fills this cap through implementation of species control agreements and species control orders, which will make it possible, under certain circumstances, to compel land owners or occupiers to carry out control or eradication operations, or allow them to be carried out by the issuing authority. Relevant bodies which can enter into species control agreements include:
- The Secretary of State;
- Natural England;
- The Environment Agency; and
- The Forestry Commission.
- The Welsh Minsters; and
- Natural Resources Wales.
Although the mechanism by which species control agreements will be issued is not particularly clear, it is envisaged that early detection and treatment of invasive non-native species on a proposed development site or plot of land will negate the requirement to enter into species control agreements with the relevant bodies and reduce the time and costs involved with proposed treatment strategies.
The Ecology Partnership has a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with invasive non-native species from early identification and mapping, through to providing recommendations for appropriate treatment strategies and therefore, if you know to have an invasive non-native species on your site or if your require confirmation of their potential presence and extent, please do not hesitate to contact The Ecology Partnership for advice.
New Zealand pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii)