To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment his department has made of the reasons for the decline in the number of water voles in England; and if he will make a statement.
In June 2018 Natural England published ‘A Review of the Population and Conservation Status of British Mammals’, which assessed the reasons for population decline in water voles, and identified and confirmed areas of work where resources should continue to be targeted to conserve and enhance water vole populations.
The review identified that a combination of intensification of agriculture, wetland drainage, the encroachment of cultivated land into riparian and wetland habitats, overgrazing, degradation of banks and predation by the American mink have had significant impacts on water vole populations.
The Government is committed to providing opportunities for species recovery as part of the 25 Year Environment Plan. Since 2010 the Environment Agency has delivered 328 projects that included habitat creation or improvement for the benefit of water voles, restoring 6,725 hectares and creating 6,330 hectares of priority habitat in rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
In addition, the Forestry Commission is currently undertaking a flagship project with a number of Trusts to restore water vole populations and habitats in the North Tyne catchment, and has already released hundreds of water voles in the area.