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Written Statement - Welsh Government Nature Fund

Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food

In July, I announced a new £6m Nature Fund to tackle the continued decline in biodiversity across Wales as highlighted by the State of Nature Report.

Today I am laying out the key activities in which I intend to invest the Fund and how I will be taking action to deliver real change for biodiversity and communities across Wales. The principal focus of the Fund will be investment in seven Nature Action Zones where the ideas submitted demonstrated that there was already a wealth of innovative landscape scale actions ready to be delivered.

The State of Nature report should have been a wake up call for all of us from governments to conservation groups, charities, land managers, individuals and industry.  It is clear that the approach that we have taken has not addressed the decline in biodiversity and it is also clear that more of the same is unlikely to succeed in the future.

Sustainable Development is key to this Government’s thinking and approach to the management of our natural resources. At the same time I want us to be ambitious in our determination and our vision for the future. The ambition must not simply be about halting the decline, we need a significant shift which recognises the interdependency with social and economic factors.  For the long term resilience of our agriculture, upland communities, wider economy and our natural environment we have to aim to improve our natural assets and that includes increasing our biodiversity.

It is evident from the State of Nature report that traditional approaches haven’t worked. That is why, over the last year, we have been working with organisations across Wales to develop our approach to this Fund.  At events across Wales, we have engaged people involved in local level activities - NGOs, land managers, farmers, woodland managers, SMEs and Local Authorities - to identify how we can increase the scale of action to address the root causes of the decline.  Over 460 ideas were submitted from organisations as a result of this process and stakeholders have welcomed this collaborative approach.

The Nature Action Zones will be:

  • Brecon Beacons
  • Cambrian Mountains
  • Conwy Valley
  • Pembrokeshire coast
  • South Wales Valleys
  • Berwyn and Migneint
  • Llyn Peninsula

Within these areas I will be funding practical actions on the ground, drawing on the ideas received, which demonstrate innovation, collaboration and good practice.  The priorities for investment will be as follows:

Action to improve river catchments
Action in river catchments, as demonstrated by the work in the Usk, Wye and Upper Severn, to improve hedgerow and woodland planting, coupled with good livestock and nutrient management to deliver improved water quality and biodiversity, safeguard soil value and reduce flood risk;

Action on marine ecosystems
Action to improve fisheries management and marine ecosystems combined with reducing the spread of invasive non-native species, improving biosecurity, and working with partners, as illustrated by proposals for the Llyn Peninsula will deliver improvements in marine biodiversity and sustain local businesses;

Action for local environment
Action to enhance natural green spaces and harness their biodiversity potential, as highlighted by examples in the South Wales Valleys will deliver improved local environmental quality and improve biodiversity and connectivity;

Action to realise the potential in our upland areas
Action to realise the potential in our uplands such as that demonstrated in Pumlumon, Berwyn and Migneint taking forward grip-blocking and improved farm management will improve both water storage and biodiversity while also supporting farm diversification;

Action to stimulate innovation
Action to further develop the interest in payment for ecosystem services, as demonstrated by the innovative work in our uplands working with land managers, will increase the potential for alternative incomes and greater diversification.

Over the coming weeks my department will be working with partners who have submitted ideas to refine clear project proposals to be funded over the course of this financial year. We will be  open to consider a limited number of proposals outside the identified Nature Action Zones for significantly  innovative, collaborative projects that can deliver the priority actions.

In addition to the Nature Action Zones, I am committed to the Welsh Government and wider public sector demonstrating leadership by taking action to increase biodiversity.  From road-side verges to our largest woodlands, we need to exemplify how we are directly investing in a way that will deliver biodiversity and community benefits across the public sector estate.  I therefore intend to invest a proportion of the Nature Fund to improve the management of land that currently has low ecological value, for example, by establishing deciduous woodlands and increasing native wild planting.

As a whole, this approach will direct the Nature Fund at tackling the decline in our biodiversity and enable people to take collaborative action which not only improves the environment, but also provides economic and social benefits for all.  In this way, the Fund will help provide a model for the integrated approach we want to take in our new Rural Development Programme, and also our wider ambitions for natural resource management.