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The European and the National Legislation of England and Wales relevant to nature conservation are as follows:

  • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended);
  • The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (the Habitats Regulations) as amended 2012;
  • The Countryside and Rights of way Act 2000 (CROW);
  • The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC).

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) is the principal legislation affording protection to UK wild birds. Under this legislation all birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law and it is an offence, with certain exceptions to recklessly or intentionally:

  • Kill, injure or take any wild bird;
  • Take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while in use or being built;
  • Take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.

Species listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) are specially protected at all times.

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) and Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive) in Great Britain have now been replaced by Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (codified version).

In addition to statutory protection, some bird species are classified according to their conservation status, such as their inclusion on the Red and Amber lists of Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) in the UK:

  • Red list (high conservation concern) species are those that are Globally Threatened according to IUCN criteria; those whose population has declined rapidly (50% or more) in recent years; and those that have declined historically and not shown a substantial recent recovery.
  • Amber list (medium conservation concern) species are those with an unfavourable conservation status in Europe; those whose population or range has declined moderately (between 25% and 49%) in recent years; those whose population has declined historically but made a substantial recent recovery; rare breeders; and those with internationally important or localised populations.
  • Green list (low conservation concern) species fulfil none of the above criteria.

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 developed the Habitats Directive into national law. The regulations came into force on 30 October 1994 and have been subsequently amended several times. They apply to land and to territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles from the coast.

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2012 consolidate all the various amendments made to the 1994 Regulations in respect of England and Wales. Relevant species which receive protection under this legislation include great crested newts, dormice and all species of bat. Protection extends to the habitat used by such species as well as the species themselves.

Protected Species