LONDON – Britain will announce a plan on Tuesday to improve the environment, including a commitment to restore at least 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of wildlife habitat to protect the country’s rarest species from hedgehogs to red squirrels.
The proposals comprise 70 new projects including 25 new or expanded National Nature Reserves, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
There are 225 National Nature Reserves in England, with a total area of over 98,600 hectares or about 0.7% of the country’s land surface, according government data.
The proposals come after the country’s nature protection watchdog criticized the government this month for falling far short on its environmental targets.
“Protecting our natural environment is fundamental to the health, economy and prosperity of our country,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who was last year forced to reverse a decision to skip the COP27 summit after heavy criticism.
Among the new pledges, the government said it wants to ensure everyone lives within a 15-minute walk from a green space or water.
Other commitments included a promise to restore 400 miles (643.74 km) of river through the first round of landscape recovery projects and establishing 3,000 hectares of new woodlands along England’s rivers.