Extinct native species should be reintroduced to the countryside and major cities should become wildlife havens, according to a report published today by a group of young environmentalists.
Based on contributions from hundreds of young people across the UK and endorsed by Sir David Attenborough, the ‘A Focus on Nature’ report sets out what steps politicians can take to ensure nature flourishes by 2015 and beyond.
Among the recommendations is a programme between Government and other organisations to create 10 city national parks across the UK and the development of urban nature reserves and wildlife gardens in the country’s most deprived communities.
Young campaigners also want extinct native species such as the beaver and lynx to be reintroduced at suitable locations.
A campaign is already underway to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx, and the group behind that bid, the Lynx UK Trust, has identified Kielder Forest in Northumberland as the preferred site for a trial reintroduction.
Matt Williams, senior editor of the report, warned that the UK is losing nature at the fastest rate in recent history and that young people are demanding action to reverse that trend.
A poll of 1,000 people by CenusWide found that almost nine out of 10 young people think it is important for politicians to take care of the natural world, and two-thirds of 16 to 34-year-olds list the environment as one of their top voting priorities.
Mr Williams said: “We’re lucky to have so much wonderful wildlife and amazing places in the UK but study after study has shown that we’re losing nature at a faster rate than at any other time in recent history.
“These new data show that young people have had enough of this and want to see more action to help protect nature for years to come.
“As young people, we will be affected far more by the future impacts of the loss of wildlife than older generations.
“The fact that we’ve voted to leave the EU only makes it more important than ever that we have an ambitious vision for helping wildlife in our country.”
Young people are using the report to urge ministers to develop a long-term plan for nature in order to maintain the natural world.
The report also calls a quarter of the country’s land and seas to be managed for nature, for tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels to be redirected to renewable energy generation and for all agricultural subsidies to be incentivised towards wildlife-friendly farming.
The campaigners want to see 20 per cent of primary school lesson time spent outdoors in quality green space, and half that time spent learning about nature.
The report’s call for “rewilding” is a controversial one, with the Lynx UK Trust’s bid to reintroduce the lynx attracting criticism from farming and landowner groups, among others.
Lynx will regulate wild deer numbers, pro-reintroduction campaigners have argued, but others fear the species would hunt for sheep.
The Lynx UK Trust said it is recommending Kielder Forest - the largest man-made woodland in England - as its preferred reintroduction site because it is largely contained from sheep farming, and has a low human population density.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor for the Trust, said: “We’re very interested in what everyone in this region has to say about the idea.”