Rodents: Conservation

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps she is taking to protect the water vole population in the UK.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Wildlife protection is a devolved matter. In accordance with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) the water vole and its habitat receives full protection in England and Wales. The species has been identified as one of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England.

Water voles and other protected species benefit from a range of initiatives including Defra’s agri-environment schemes as well as river and wetland restoration projects, and water quality improvements.

The Environment Agency has created nearly 5,000 hectares of wetland and river habitats in the last 10 years and is working in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts to improve and protect over 15,000km of rivers, lakes and coastal waters, creating healthy riverside habitats benefiting animals such as water voles.

Agri-environment schemes such as Countryside Stewardship provide suitable habitat for wildlife including water voles and other small mammals. Scheme options that benefit water voles include buffer strips alongside ponds, ditches, and other watercourses and fencing alongside watercourses to protect bankside vegetation. Long-term strategic conservation work includes re-introduction schemes such as a recent scheme in Hertfordshire, combined with mink management projects (such as the Norfolk Mink Project) and habitat management.

In addition the National Water Vole Monitoring Programme launched by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) in collaboration with the UK Water Vole Steering Group (The Wildlife Trusts, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, Environment Agency, Natural England and RSPB) aims to bring together all surveying work that is being carried out across the country, as well as monitor selected historical sites, to establish any changes in the water vole population and to help guide future conservation efforts.

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