Over the past decade, wildlife protection and the sustainable management of our natural heritage have become increasingly regarded as key policy aims for Government. However, it is equally recognised that the legal framework for wildlife management is overly complicated, frequently contradictory and unduly prescriptive. Consequently, the law creates unnecessary barriers to effective wildlife management, including the efficient implementation and enforcement of Government policy.
It should be recognised that invasive non-native species were introduced as a result of human action and can cause significant environmental and economic damage. Additionally, they pose a significant threat to ecosystems as well as damaging property and infrastructure. Any law seeking to redress this man-made imbalance of the natural ecosystems must be carefully considered and targeted at effective action.
The Law Commission’s 11th programme of law reform contained a wildlife law project proposed by the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which included consideration of the law relating to the conservation, control, protection and exploitation of wildlife in England and Wales. The law relating to habitats or the Hunting Act 2004 was excluded from the remit of the project.
Following wide consultation in 2012 and an interim statement published in 15 October 2013, the final report; Wildlife Law: Control of Invasive Non-native Species was formally published on 11 February 2014. It is understood that the final report was brought forward at the request of Defra and the Welsh Government to enable them to consider whether to introduce early legislation.
The overall conclusion of the Law Commission’s final report is that the existing law does not contain sufficient powers to allow for their timely and effective control or eradication. In total there are 45 recommendations, which seek to implement species control orders as a proportionate and necessary response to an increasing problem.
The next steps are for a proposed Law Commission draft Bill with the full consultation analysis to be tabled in late summer 2014.
The Law Commission’s final report can be found at http://bit.ly/1gSw1yH and further information is available on the Law Commission website at http://bit.ly/1ffxbnz