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Last edited 27 Jun 2018
Wildlife and Countryside Act
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the predominant piece of nature conservation and wildlife protection legislation in Great Britain. It consists of numerous sections and supplementary lists and schedules, many of which have been amended and updated since the original publication. The act is divided into four sections:
- Part I - Protection of wildlife.
- Part II - Countryside and national parks.
- Part III - Public rights of way.
- Part IV - Miscellaneous.
- Kill, injure, or take any wild bird.
- Take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built.
- Take or destroy an egg of any wild bird.
There is a list of birds on Schedule 1 of the Act which receive additional protection against disturbance whilst at their nests, or their dependent young. Special Protection Areas may also be designated by the Secretary of State to provide additional protection to birds. The Act also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking birds, restricts the sale and possession of captive bred birds, and sets standards for keeping birds in captivity.
 Other animals
Sections 9 to 12 of Part 1 of the Act relate to the protection of other wild animals. The Act makes it an offence (subject to exceptions) to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild animal listed on Schedule 5, and prohibits interference with places used for shelter or protection, or intentionally disturbing animals occupying such places.
The Act also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking wild animals. Animals listed on Schedule 5 include reptiles, bats, wild cat, dormice, pine marten, amphibians (including great crested newts), red squirrel, water vole and otter.
- To intentionally pick, uproot or destroy any wild plant listed in Schedule 8, or any seed or spore attached to any such wild plant (only under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004)).
- Unless an authorised person, to intentionally (or recklessly) - only under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004) - uproot any wild plant not included in Schedule 8.
- To sell, offer or expose for sale, or possess for the purposes of trade, any live or dead wild plant included in Schedule 8, or any part of, or anything derived from, such a plant.
 Non-native species of wildlife
In addition to the protection of native wildlife, the Act also contains measures for preventing the establishment of non-native species which may be detrimental to native wildlife, prohibiting the release of animals and planting of plants listed in Schedule 9 in England and Wales.
 Quinquennial review
The statutory nature conservation agencies; Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage, working jointly through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), are required to review Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act every five years.
They make recommendations to the Secretary of State and Ministers for the Environment for any amendments or updates. Schedule 5 lists animals (other than birds) which are specially protected, and Schedule 8 lists plants (vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens and fungi) which are specially protected.
 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
The Act outlines the process for the notification and designation of SSSIs by the conservation bodies in England (Natural England) and Wales (Natural Resources Wales). In Scotland similar powers are afforded to Scottish Natural Heritage under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 and in Northern Ireland the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside have powers under the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 to designate Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs).
A notification which specifies the time period within which representations and objections may be made must be served on the relevant local planning authority, land owners and occupiers, and the Secretary of State. The relevant conservation body must consider these responses and may withdraw or confirm the notification, with or without amendment. The Act also contains measures for the protection and management of SSSIs.
It also allows for the designation of Marine Nature Reserves which should be managed by the appropriate conservation body for the purpose of conserving marine flora or fauna or geological or physiological features of special interest in the area. It also allows for the provision of byelaws within the nature reserves to protect them.
The Act prohibits the undertaking of agricultural or forestry operations on land within National Parks which has been either moor or heath for 20 years, without consent from the relevant planning authority. Planning authorities are also required to make available to the public up to date maps of moor and heath land within National Parks, which are important for the conservation of natural beauty.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Areas of outstanding natural beauty.
- Designated areas.
- Environmental Protection Act.
- National nature reserve.
- National nature reserves.
- National Park.
- National trails.
- National Trust.
- Natural England.
- Natural England.
- Planning authority.
- Protected species.
- Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
 External references
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