In light of the threat posed by the current review of the Birds and Habitats Directives by the EU Commission, today I visited Rugeley Heath, Cannock Chase with the RSPB.
The Chase is home to a nationally important population of Nightjar and Woodlark which rest at ground level on the open heathland, and it’s the only place in the West Midlands you can visit to reliably see these species. Not only that, but the site claims the title of the smallest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England – something that is most definitely worth protecting.
I share the RSPB’s concerns that changes to the Directives will weaken the support they can provide to the local bird populations and their habitats, so I stand with them, the people of Cannock and over 100,000 people that have registered their views against changing it.
Additionally, the RSPB conducted a study this year in collaboration with the University of Durham which found that the most consistent single factor in a species’ fate is whether it has the highest level of protection under the Directive. I am going to take this up with the European Commission in the coming months and stand against changes to the legislation.
As it is, the Directive is a big success story for European collaboration, and the RSPB also provides technical and financial support to partner organisations across the EU to identify and promote conservation and biodiversity solutions. The support for our local area doesn’t end there, as the RSPB also has a national partnership in place with CEMEX UK and is working to help them restore the lowland heath surrounding their Rugeley Quarry.
It was also good to see that the Chase is well used today, but I’d also urge visitors to think about how small incursions on the site can have an impact on the habitat, potentially leading to destruction, so do take care. Colin from the RSPB also informed me of the 80 volunteers that work to maintain the Canncok Chase area during high summer so it’s fantastic to see this level of local support.
As well as bird spotting, Rugeley Heath is also known for the WWI-era archaeology that can be found on site, so pay a visit and enjoy the views!