Giant hogweed growing on waste ground. Photo: Rab Pillans via Flickr.com.
Exterminate! New law to compel landowners to kill off exotics
11th February 2014
The Law Commission says the UK's wildlife agencies should be able to compel landowners to clear invasive exotic plants and animals from their land, or enter land and do it themselves.
The bodies should have the power to issue species control orders where necessary to ensure the successful delivery of control or eradication programmes.
The proposed 'Species Control Orders' would empower Government departments and agencies to compel owners or occupiers to carry out control or eradication operations - or allow such operations to be carried out by the bodies themselves.
"The bodies should continue to proceed by agreement wherever possible but should have the power to issue species control orders where necessary to ensure the successful delivery of control or eradication programmes", says the Commission.
Early detection and eradication are essential
The new species control orders could be issued only where the plant or animal has been identified as non-native and invasive,representing a serious threat to local biodiversity or economy, and where the operations required are proportional to the problem.
Nicholas Paines QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, said: "Invasive non-native species are a threat to biodiversity. Early detection and eradication are essential to protect native species and minimise damage to the environment.
"There is also an economic price to pay, with some invasive plants and animals capable of causing significant damage to property and costing a great deal to control and remove.
'Proportionate and necessary'
The ideal solution is for governmental bodies and landowners to reach agreements allowing for invasive non-native species to be eradicated or controlled, he added.
"But this is not always possible. Species control orders are a proportionate and necessary response to an increasing problem."
Owners or occupiers subject to a species control order would have the right to appeal to a tribunal and, where relevant, would be compensated for any damage caused by the eradication work. To breach a species control order would be a criminal offence.
Invasive non-native species are ones that arrive as a result of human action and cause environmental and economic damage.
They pose a significant threat to ecosystems as well as damaging property and infrastructure. Existing law does not contain sufficient powers to allow for their timely and effective control or eradication.
Who and what
The bodies that may be given the power to issue Species Control Orders or enter land to control invasice exotic species include Defra, the Welsh Government, and statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.
Among the plants that may be subject to the SCOs are plants such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam, Giant hogweed and Rhododendron ponticum.
Animals so controlled could include coypu - exterminated from the Norfolk Broads at a cost of £2 million. The last sighting was in 1989.
The report, Wildlife Law: Control of Invasive Non-native Species, is the first from the Law Commission's Wildlife project, which is due to be completed late 2014. It is available on www.lawcom.gov.uk.
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