Species Champions in Westminster

Richard Benyon MP, champion of the snake’s-head fritillary wildflower, hosted a reception in Westminster recently to celebrate the first year of the Species Champions project and to welcome 39 other MPs from across the political spectrum as fellow champions.

TV presenter Steve Backshall was there to recognise MPs’ efforts for nature conservation in Parliament and out in the field.

Richard is working with the charity Plantlife to champion the snake’s-head fritillary, both in his West Berkshire constituency and in Westminster. The graceful nodding bells of this stunning wildflower are the epitome of English floodplain meadows, but are now only found on a few sites, including in Berkshire. Richard is a Trustee of Plantlife and actively supports the charity’s work. 

The Species Champions project brings together MPs and conservationists from a partnership of nine wildlife organisations to work on behalf of threatened species which range from the fen orchid to the Atlantic salmon and the small copper butterfly to the greater horseshoe bat.

Richard stressed the vital role of Species Champion MPs in advocating strong protection for wildlife as the UK prepares to exit the EU.

He commented, “This is an important time for MPs to be speaking up for wildlife. The State of Nature 2016 report highlighted the ongoing decline of over half the species studied, with more than one in ten at risk of extinction. Leaving the EU will present both risks and opportunities for the environment. During the legislative process we will have a critical role in ensuring the new laws work to secure a thriving natural world.”

Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Plantlife, who spoke at the event on behalf of conservation groups, said: “Richard Benyon’s longstanding support for snake’s-head fritillary, and for plant conservation, is a great asset to our countryside, giving wild plants a much-needed voice in Parliament as well as in his constituency.”

At the ceremony MPs were asked to sign the Greener UK Pledge for the Environment.  The pledge, which Richard has signed, calls upon MPs to work to establish the UK as a world leader in the environment by committing to match or exceed the current protections we have in place for nature.