Save our Spikes! Don't let England's new farming rules destroy hedgehog habitats

Save our Spikes! Don't let England's new farming rules destroy hedgehog habitats

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Andrew Heaver started this petition to UK Parliament and

England’s hedgehogs are in trouble: studies suggest that rural hedgehog populations have plummeted by over 50% since 2000 (see sources, below).

While concerned homeowners across the UK try to do their bit for urban hedgehogs, countryside hedgehogs are struggling – and may now face a new threat, as the government is changing the rules for farmland management, post-Brexit: MPs are currently considering a game-changing Agriculture Bill.

Countryside hedgehogs depend on hedgerows and insect-rich foraging areas. But protections for these habitats are at risk, as the Agriculture Bill looks set to revise (or even abolish) aspects of the agriculture regulations we’ve inherited from the European Union.

Current rules prevent hedge-cutting during bird nesting season (which is also the main activity period for hedgehogs), and require farmers to leave a 2-metre wide 'buffer zone' alongside each hedge: a wild, pesticide-free preserve, allowing farmland wildlife to forage on minibeasts. But a recent assessment for the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWF reported that these protections seem set to be abandoned in the Agriculture Bill (see sources, below).

If England’s rural hedgehogs (and farmland songbirds) are to have a real chance of recovery, hedgerows and their accompanying ‘buffer strips’ will need to be part of the solution. They can provide safe shelter and – because of their pesticide-free status – rich opportunities for hungry hedgehogs. We need better protections for these farmland habitats, not fewer!

As the UK Parliament considers the Agriculture Bill, we call on MPs and ministers to:

  • Retain existing protections for hedgerows and their ‘buffer strips’, to protect existing habitat for hedgehogs, songbirds and other farmland wildlife;
  • Ensure that hedgerow and ‘buffer zone’ rules apply to ALL farmers, regardless of whether they choose to apply for farm subsidies;
  • Consult fully with farmland wildlife experts, to ensure that hedgerow protection rules genuinely help hedgehogs, songbirds and other farmland wildlife, and to maximise opportunities to encourage the creation of new habitats for hedgehogs (and other declining wildlife).

Whether you agree with Brexit or not, please make sure that our hedgehogs, songbirds and other farmland wildlife are still able to survive and thrive.

Please speak up now, before Parliament gives its final approval to the government’s plans.

 

SOURCES:

British Hedgehog Preservation Society / Peoples Trust for Endangered Species. “Hedgehog Ecology and Land Management” leaflet.

Wilson & Bembridge, 2018. “The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018”. Published by British Hedgehog Preservation Society and Peoples Trust for Endangered Species.

Baldock & Hart (Institute of European Environmental Policy), 2020. “Risks and Opportunities of a post-EU environmental regulatory regime for agriculture in England”.

R.S.P.B., 2020. “New report reveals hedgehogs, yellowhammers and dragonflies at risk post-Brexit” – Press release, 31st January 2020.

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