Wildlife conservation: NI Executive criticised for not hitting targets

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Tufted ducks are on a red list of high conservation concern

A leading conservation charity has criticised the executive for failing to hit targets in its plan to halt biodiversity loss.

RSPB Northern Ireland said departments had not met 37 of 42 of targets they had set themselves.

They were in a five-year strategy intended to slow the decline of wildlife.

The charity’s director says the only way now to reverse the trend was with binding targets in legislation.

Eleven per cent of species in Northern Ireland – some 272 – are now considered at risk of extinction.

They include species like the small blue butterfly and the spiny dogfish.

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Black-tailed godwits, which can be seen in NI in the spring and autumn, are on a medium conservation concern amber list

Joanne Sherwood said there had been some “piecemeal improvements” but they were not enough.

“We are in the middle of a nature and climate crisis.

“What we need to see now is some leadership and concerted effort to get targets into statute so government can be held to account.”

The targets were set in Northern Ireland’s Biodiversity Strategy and were to be achieved between 2015 and 2020.

Ms Sherwood pointed to a drop in water quality standards over the period; the failure to designate sufficient protected sites for nature; and a promised review of planning legislation which had not been undertaken.

She said a survey carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic showed people were interacting and enjoying nature more and three quarters of them wanted targets based in law.

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A survey carried out by the executive found young people in NI do not believe it was living up to promises on the environment

Conservationists have called for Northern Ireland specific legislation and an independent agency to protect the environment.

The criticism comes on top of an executive survey which found that most young people did not believe it was living up to wider promises on the environment.

Almost 4,000 students aged 11-16 were asked about the Executive’s programme for government outcome targets.

It found that Executive delivery on its commitment to “look after the environment” bottom of 12 such outcomes with just 22% of teenagers agreeing.

BBC News