Species Protection
Species Protection

The following Environment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Species Protection
  • Background
  • EU species protection
  • The Habitats Directive
  • The Birds Directive
  • Migration
  • Species protection under national law
  • Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  • Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017
  • Further specific species protection
  • More...

Brexit impact

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this content.

For further guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit—impact on environmental law and News Analysis: Brexit Bulletin—key updates, research tips and resources.


There are four main categories of protection for species:

  1. habitat conservation, by designating key sites

  2. protection for individual animals and plants, regardless of whether or not they are in a designated area

  3. integrated nature conservation, using general policies that are conducive to nature conservation for example agricultural and forestry policy and

  4. incidental protection, ie taking advantage of general legal powers to protect nature conservation interests

The nature conservation agency in England is Natural England (NE) and in Wales nature conservation is the responsibility of Natural Resources Wales (NRW). Under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 NE can enter into an agreement with a conservation body or any other body and delegate functions to that body including monitoring and research. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee oversees matter affecting the whole of the UK, for example establishing common criteria for designation of conservation sites.

For more information on habitats conservation, see Practice Notes: Designated areas and Non-statutory designated areas.


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