The Peak District National Park is renowned for its beauty and 13 million people visit every year. With majestic rivers, striking dales, magnificent moors as well as beautiful wooded valleys, the Peak District should be teeming with wildlife, abundant with wild animals and plants.
Tragically this is not the case. Biodiversity within the Peak District National Park is in decline, and this is the case for almost all our national parks.
In 2019 the Government-commissioned Glover Review concluded that England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are uniquely placed to drive nature’s recovery, deliver nature-based solutions to the climate crisis and to connect people with nature.
It also found that these protected landscapes are falling a long way short of their potential.
Successive surveys have highlighted the public demand for National Parks to play these roles and the Review proposed the changes needed to achieve this.
Almost 18 months later, the government has yet to respond. In the meantime, nature has been offering hope and consolation to millions of us during the pandemic, whilst evidence shows that wildlife is continuing to decline and access to nature is unequal.
Action is needed now to tackle the main forces driving wildlife decline, including the burning of peatlands, intensive agriculture, water and air pollution, drainage, the illegal killing of protected wildlife, inappropriate forestry cover and the lack of native woodland.
Ten important changes to transform protected landscapes for the good of nature, climate and people were sent to the DEFRA Secretary of State last month which the four trusts are now calling on the Government and the Park Authority to act on.
These included delivery of nature based solutions to climate change, connecting more people from all parts of society to nature, setting and reporting on clear nature recovery targets and to giving protected landscapes the resources they need to deliver for nature, climate and people.
Julian Woolford, CEO of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust which manages the iconic 975 acre Roaches nature reserve on the edge of the Peak District National Park, said: “It is a landmark occasion for the Park to reach its’ 70th anniversary. We do believe it can be an even more special place for our wonderful wildlife to thrive though – and want the Government to take steps to offer better protection to the landscape. We want this to be a celebration of a stunning part of our landscape – but also steps made to make it an even more prosperous place for wildlife for the next 70 years and beyond.”
Jo Smith, CEO of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, which manages several important sites across the park, said: “We are facing a nature emergency - around half of UK wildlife has decreased since 1970, with 1 in 7 species now at risk of extinction. There is a need for better national oversight and support for our protected landscapes. As we head towards COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference) in the UK in November, now is the perfect time for the Government and the National Park Authorities to step up and commit to ensuring our National Parks are better for wildlife.”
The Trusts state that if the Government took these reforms forward now, it would be showing strong global leadership ahead of the major international biodiversity and climate conferences later this year.
Liz Ballard, CEO of Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust which leads the Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership, said: “We need ambitious plans for nature recovery and National Parks can help lead the way. We want to work with our partners, including the National Park Authority, to help turn around the loss of wildlife we have seen over decades, right across the Peak District landscape. We urgently need an ambitious Nature Recovery Plan for the Peak District.”
Charlotte Harris, Chief Executive of Cheshire Wildlife Trust said: “National Parks play a vital role in addressing both the ecological and climate emergencies. Nature is in crisis and we need to act now. We want to see national parks managed in a way that helps nature recover as well as being places that protect us from the effects of rising temperatures. They are also places that are good for the soul- where we can connect with nature and be immersed in a truly wild and beautiful landscape. With the right protection and action, the Peak District National Park can lead the way in delivering the Government’s environmental commitments.”
The milestone is a chance for real celebration – but also reflection on how, moving forward, the Government and the Park Authority can support landowners, businesses, local authorities and the public to ensure the Peak District National Park remains a great place for people, and becomes a brilliant space for nature and nature’s recovery.
Tim Birch Director of Nature's Recovery at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust added "We need a wild and exciting Peak District National Park; a land restored so that Ospreys once again soar overhead, Black Grouse and Hen Harriers are back where they belong amidst abundant wildflower meadows rich in insect life and healthy blanket bogs; where Pine Martens and Red Squirrels are thriving, native woodlands are regenerating across our hillsides and valleys while Beavers are restoring and creating new wetlands. Who wouldn’t like to visit such an inspiring place?”