26/09/2007
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Set-aside Lifeline Hauled Back In

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Stone Curlew (photo: Peter Simpson) .

The decision today to scrap a measure that has helped farmland birds across Europe will damn many species to further declines. Numbers of Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Linnets could plummet another 5% now that the EU has abolished set-aside - a 19-year-old requirement for some fields on every arable farm to be left fallow.

Set-aside has been a boon for farmland birds, whose populations have dropped by 40% in the last 30 years. Stone Curlews will be particularly at risk because many farmers have created nesting areas for them on set-aside.

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Gareth Morgan, Head of Agriculture Policy at the RSPB, said: "We're very disappointed with this decision particularly since nothing is being done to provide alternative benefits for wildlife. Set-aside land had become a giant bird table for many species and a place where birds could nest safe from farm machinery. Even one year without it will seriously affect the government's hopes of halting farmland bird declines and it is crucial now that Defra encourages and rewards farmers for continuing to help the wildlife on their farms."

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn is expected to announce the government's response to the EU decision tomorrow.

Written by: RSPB