The hedgehog is an extraordinary creature with a long and celebrated history in this country. I am encouraged that these creatures are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 from being killed using methods such as crossbows, traps and snares.
The Environment Act contains measures that will help improve the status of threatened species. I welcome that the Act includes a new legally binding target on species abundance for 2030, with the aim of halting the decline of nature in England, as well as strengthening the duty of public authorities to take action to conserve and enhance biodiversity. Ministers are also acting, through the Act, to protect and create the habitat that our native species, including hedgehogs, need to thrive.
I also support the measured approach to environmental reform that the Secretary of State will take. Ministers will consult with the new Office for Environmental Protection, and work with conservation groups on any proposals they develop before any regulatory changes are made. Shortly, a Green Paper will be brought forward setting out plans to deliver a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose, including the objective of protecting 30 per cent of terrestrial land by 2030. I believe that we need a revised approach to deliver this species abundance target and better support iconic and much-loved species like the hedgehog.
Further, the Government continues to work on determining the specific actions that will reward farmers and land managers under the new environmental land management schemes. These schemes, including the Sustainable Farming Incentive, will help to create and preserve woodlands, heathlands, species-rich grassland and a range of habitats that will benefit hedgehogs.
I also understand that schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 focuses on deliberate harm against species. Although I agree with the sentiment behind the proposal to add hedgehogs to the schedule to ensure their protection, it is not clear that the species is being threatened in that way. Therefore, the protection under the Act would not currently address the main challenges that the species faces.
The data-gathering phase of the review of schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act ran until 7 July 2021. Through this process, Non-Governmental Organisations were able to propose additional endangered species for inclusion on the schedules, propose species for removal from the schedules, and/or propose a change in protection status of a species on the schedules. It is worth noting that any proposal submitted must have included evidence that an endangered species would actually benefit from the additional protection and increase its chances of survival. I understand that recommendations will be provided to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the devolved administrations in Great Britain early in 2022, and that the Secretary of State will consider these recommendations, before laying this advice before Parliament.