Natural Resources Wales is launched

Today marks the official launch of a new body to manage the natural environment in Wales. Natural Resources Wales brings together three previously separate organisations – Forestry Commission Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Environment Agency Wales – to ensure natural resources are sustainably managed, enhanced and used, both now and in the future.

All three of these former organisations tackled some of the most difficult and diverse challenges that Wales faces today. In combining these objectives, Natural Resources Wales therefore has a broad remit, and is required to deal with energy and fuel supply, provision of jobs and income, the threats of climate change and flooding and improving people’s health and wellbeing. A tall order, but one overall body for Wales is proposed to render this achievable through more effective and efficient use of resources.

With this in mind, Natural Resources Wales have set several aims for their first year in operation:

• protect people and their homes as far as possible from environmental incidents like flooding and pollution;
• maintain and improve the quality of the environment, including the promotion of nature conservation, access and recreation;
• provide opportunities for people to learn, use and benefit from Wales’ natural resources;
• support Wales’ economy by using natural resources to support jobs & enterprise;
• help businesses understand and work with environmental, social and economic impacts when they bring forward proposals;
• help make the environment and natural resources more resilient to climate change and other pressures.

These broad aims cover what would be expected from a natural environment management body. Assessing and monitoring progress towards these will be vital, and could provide lessons for environmental management in other areas.

In England, a Triennial Review of two natural resource bodies, Natural England and the Environment Agency, is currently underway. By assessing the functions of both bodies, the review aims to ensure England has ‘sufficiently strong and resilient delivery bodies to meet [its] environmental ambitions’. The results of the assessments are set to determine how the bodies are managed in the future. Potential reforms from the review were set out in a discussion paper by Defra last year, and range from the status quo to a merger of the two bodies. With the potential for England to have an environmental management body similar to Natural Resources Wales, it is worth paying close attention to see what works, what doesn’t, and whether the merge gives more efficient and collaborative management of the natural environment.