So what is next for National Parks in Wales?
When Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn AM makes her statement on 13th March, we hope for:
- an end to years of uncertainty stemming from repeated reviews without any resolution
- commitment to National Parks and AONBs as conservation designations
- reversal of cuts which have seen, for example, the budget of Snowdonia National Park Authority cut in real terms by over 40% since 2001.
We hope for commitment and investment to match the ambitions for National Parks to deliver a vast range of society’s needs. National Parks deliver food and fuel, clean air and water, adventure and experience, beauty and inspiration. This doesn’t happen by accident; it takes well-managed and well-resourced National Parks.
We hope for recognition that the conservation ethic which underpins National Parks is what allows them to deliver in the long term. The risk of weakening any of the protection mechanisms is that there are always some hands ready to take a slice without giving something back. In the end the state of our National Parks – our ‘Natural Health Service’ – is a statement of who we are as a nation.
Above all, we really hope to see signs that Welsh Government has listened to all the conservation organisations in Wales, and the thousands of individuals who responded to the consultation in the Autumn. The consistent message has been ‘Please maintain and strengthen the conservation protections for our designated landscapes, for the sake of current and future generations’.
We’ve fought hard to challenge the worst elements of the ‘Future Landscapes’ report, and made sure it has received the scrutiny it needed. Last year we led a coalition of organisations whose members ensured that, when the Assembly considered designated landscapes on 6th June, the debate was full of the language of conservation rather than exploitation. Now we face the more difficult task of helping to find a way forward. Please support our work and be part of the network of helping hands, making a difference, working together for our wonderful National Parks.