EU Birds and Habitats Directives – Fit for Purpose?

Alex McAuley ICF

EU Birds and Habitats Directives – Fit for Purpose?

Alex McAuley ICFFollowing a consultation with ICF members, Alex McAuley, ICF Policy & Development Officer, examines whether the EU Birds and Habitats Directives are ‘fit for purpose’ and their impact on the sustainable management of UK forests and woodlands.



Under the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), an entire stock of EU legislation was reviewed, resulting in a series of follow-up actions, one of which is a ‘Fitness Check’. This involves a comprehensive policy evaluation aimed at assessing whether the regulatory framework for a particular policy sector is ‘fit for purpose’. With this in mind, a Fitness Check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives was launched.

After consultation with ICF members, a formal response was submitted. ICF accepts that the principles underlying the Birds and Habitats Directives are important for sustainable management of trees, woods and forests, but the transposition of these Directives into domestic law and subsequent implementation can result in problems. We believe that the Directives are effective in protecting nature across the range of habitats and species, with good evidence of where they have made a difference.


Images courtesy of the Forestry Commission. © Neill Campbell

We expressed some concern that the legislation is ineffective for dealing with over-population of native and non-native problem species in designated sites and more importantly, in the wider countryside, such as, deer and grey squirrels.

In the response, the Institute was also keen to stress that the Commission needs to continue to strengthen other measures – such as the promotion of more active management of woodlands – that can contribute towards achieving the objectives of these Directives. We argued that the interpretation needs to be flexible and reflect practical considerations on the ground, in order to avoid undermining confidence in the Directives. ICF also made the point that the Directives will need to work in harmony with existing legislation, such as CAP.

It is anticipated that the European Commission will report on the results of the Fitness Check in 2016. ICF will monitor developments with interest and keep ICF members informed.

Should you wish to read the full response then please visit the Members’ Area.

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