As a constituency MP, I am committed, as so many of my constituents are, to working towards leaving the environment in a better state than we inherited it, here in Mid Sussex and across the UK.
This is a priority issue and the Environmental Improvement Plan sets out how the Government will achieve its ambitious targets, the most critical of which is to halt the decline of nature by the end of this decade.
We believe a collaborative approach, finding sustainable solutions to local issues that brings everyone on board, offers the best chance of restoring biodiversity and protecting the environment in the long term.
To that end, the Government is committed to supporting farmers and those living and working on the moor to safeguard the long-term management of the moors.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has announced an independent review into the management of protected sites on Dartmoor, carried out by a panel which will work with local farmers and stakeholders and draw on the best available evidence.
The review will consider the current management of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) across Dartmoor to determine why some sites are seeing improvements and others are not. It will also examine previous approaches on Dartmoor or similar situations by examining comparable case-studies, as well as make recommendations as to the most effective grazing and management regime that would deliver improvements on the SSSI sites across Dartmoor.
The review will advise what is needed to support delivery of that regime consistent with existing legally binding targets and statutory duties, focusing on those sites that are currently not recovering or in favourable condition. I understand that the report will be available in the autumn and help inform the environmental schemes and protected site management across Dartmoor.
While the review is ongoing, Natural England has confirmed it will limit changes to current environmental agreements and only ask for immediate changes to stocking regimes on a minority of sites where it poses an immediate threat to the longer-term recovery of the ecology of the SSSI.
This will allow for the results of the review to be considered before farmers and Natural England agree together the longer-term nature of those schemes and site management while allowing farming systems to adapt to any changes needed.
In England, four legally binding targets have been set for biodiversity, including to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030; then to reverse declines by 2042; to reduce the risk of species extinction by 2042; and restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wild-life rich habitat, also by 2042.
I hope this update will help to reassure constituents the Government is serious about its environmental responsibilities.