To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to maintain water vole numbers and protect their habitat.
Water voles and their habitat receive full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and have been identified as one of the species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England.
This protection ensures that the welfare of water voles and their habitat is taken into consideration in planning and development (they are highlighted under planning policy guidance). Water voles and their habitats are also taken into consideration in agri-environment schemes such as Higher Level Stewardship where suitable habitat is protected, enhanced or created for their benefit through appropriate land management.
Natural England, the Environment Agency, The Wildlife Trusts, People's Trust for Endangered Species, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency are all members of the UK Water Vole Steering Group. This group supports and co-ordinates water vole initiatives across the UK, including the Water Vole Database and Mapping Project, which aims to manage and store water vole data, collate data on American mink, enable mapping of this data arid ensure effective use of the datasets for the benefit of water vole populations.