July 2008

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2008 |  July 2008

Setting-aside space for UK birds

The UK government has announced its first steps to address the crises faced by farmland birds, following the abolition of the EU set-aside obligation.
The set-aside obligation, which required farmers to leave part of their land fallow, has now been abolished. Set-aside has, incidentally, been providing key habitat for numerous species of wildlife. Many farmland birds have now lost their safe breeding areas or their key sources of winter food.
Last week the UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced that from 2009 farmers receiving EU subsidies will be required to dedicate a small fraction of their land to wildlife friendly habitats, thus reproducing some of the environmental benefits of set-aside. Farmers will be able to count toward this obligation areas enrolled in agri-environmental schemes, for which they are receiving an extra payment.
Ariel Brunner, BirdLife's EU Agriculture Policy Officer, commented: "The scientific case is now clear that the abolition of set-aside is severely harming the environment. We applaud the UK government for admitting this and finding the courage to start addressing the problem. Other EU Member States governments should follow the example and the EU Council must adopt similar measures across the EU when it discusses the CAP Health check in the autumn".
Set-aside was introduced in 1992 to remove land from production to reduce the EU’s grain mountains. It was abandoned for a year in September 2007 to increase food production. In July, the European Commission announced that set-aside is to be abolished permanently. Farmers will continue to receive their set-aside subsidy despite being able to use the land for commercial production. The environmental benefits of set-aside were incidental, but considerable. Wood Larks Lulla arborea, Eurasian Skylarks Alauda arvensis, Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax and Vulnerable Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca have all benefited from set-aside because they can find food in winter or undisturbed nesting sites in spring.
The EU has committed to halt the decline of biodiversity by 2010. But with less than two years to go, the situation of farmland birds and other biodiversity of the farmed landscapes is still in dire straits. The EU decision to abolish set-aside, without providing credible environmental alternatives, risks triggering a further collapse.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2008 |  July 2008

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