Crucial but poorly understood and under-valued, these places are havens for some of our rarest habitats and species. Yet hundreds of them are being lost or becoming degraded every year.
In some counties such as Wiltshire, 10% of the land is made up of Local Wildlife Sites - this is land which has been identified as very important for wild plants and animals. Yet these places do not always benefit from the recognition needed to ensure protection and the right kind of care.
Rachel Hackett, Living Landscapes Development Manager, explains: “The Wildlife Trusts hope to inspire landowners, planners, local authorities, statutory agencies, developers, managers and volunteers to recognise, cherish and protect these wild havens. Local Wildlife Sites form a vital network of wild habitats which, together, make up the very core of our natural heritage. We’re calling on everyone involved with these special places to protect them and seek expert advice on the best way of caring for each place’s unique character, habitat and species.”
Unlike Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Local Wildlife Sites are not protected by law and do not benefit from national recognition of their wildlife importance. This makes them vulnerable to neglect, mismanagement and the huge pressure for development across the country.
Rachel Hackett continues: “The UK’s natural habitats and the wildlife that depends on them will not survive if they are merely confined to a few Sites of Special Scientific Interest. We must value and protect all our Local Wildlife Sites much more if we are to ensure a healthy future for a diverse and abundant range of wildlife.”
Without these places we would have virtually no wildlife.
The Wildlife Trusts’ new guide highlights how important these places are. For example:
• In Greater London, Local Wildlife Sites make up 20% of the land area – that’s more than 1,570 places that are crucial for the survival of London’s wildlife. These green spaces also give people access to nature and are vital for both mental and physical health
• In Wiltshire, 75% of the county’s broadleaved woodland is in Local Wildlife Sites. Only 10% is found in Sites of Special Scientific Interest
• Nearly 2,500 acres of the Derbyshire countryside outside the Peak District National Park is made up of Local Wildlife Sites - important grassland havens for an abundance of nature from bees and butterflies to barn owls
Rachel Hackett concludes: “Local Wildlife Sites are often the places we all know in our neighbourhoods – from wildlife-rich hedgerows and roadsides to commons and green open spaces in our towns and cities. If you own or manage one, contact your local Wildlife Trust and they can either offer expert advice or point you in the right direction for help with surveys and management options.”
Matt Jackson, Head of Conservation at Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust says: “In our patch Local Wildlife Sites support the vast majority of our wildlife. They lack the status of national sites, but may have just as much wildlife value.
The Wildlife Trusts’ report, ‘Secret Spaces’, published in 2014 found that more than 11% of Local Wildlife Sites monitored in the period 2009–2013 were lost or damaged.