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Britain is home to a rich array of wildlife and environments. This natural heritage is not only a source of pride and pleasure for many Britons, but it is also a vital asset for rural communities up and down the country.

It is almost routine to hear of the serious threats that loom over the natural world both at home and abroad. Britain’s natural environment faces a multi-faceted threat in the form of climate change, agricultural practices, plastics, pollution and non-native species.

One stark example of our depleting natural capital is the Skylark. The Skylark is a medium sized bird, known by many as the archetypal British farmland bird. This once common bird has lost around two-thirds of its population since the 1970s. This decline has been attributed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to various changing agricultural practices such as increased pesticide use. The Skylark stands as an all too representative symbol of Britain’s rapidly dwindling natural heritage; it has been suggested that half of Britain’s wild species are in decline and that Britain has lost half of its ancient woodland in the last 80 years.

Conservatism at its best cherishes both the past and the future. Our natural heritage represents an important part of our past but also an important resource for the future. It is essential that responsible agriculture and land use become a hallmark of the British countryside to keep agricultural turnover sustainable. To truly grow the agricultural industry of Britain, it must be grounded in the future; a future which can only be guaranteed by more responsible practices.

Conservatives must start thinking now about the huge opportunities to rethink the way land is managed with the potential overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy after Brexit. This is a chance to bring conservation and local thinking into the heart of land management in Britain.

Environmental protection does not have to be a fiscally frivolous activity. Evidence has shown, for example, that natural methods to avoid insecticide such as companion planting, where plants are planted with crops to prevent pests, can be an effective and relatively cheap way to protect important produce. Many farmers are being encouraged to maintain healthy field margins with a variety of wildflowers and hedgerows. Not only have these been shown to be good for wildlife, they can prevent soil erosion and encourage crop pollination, improving yields.

Additionally, natural heritage forms an important part of Britain’s tourist appeal. In Scotland it has been estimated that 40% of tourism is nature-based in some way. It goes without saying that the Highlands in Scotland and beaches in Cornwall would fail to appeal to tourists in a sterile landscape lacking in wildlife. Tourism is said to support 25,000 jobs in the Scottish Highlands and be worth £1.8 billion to Cornwall’s economy.

Furthermore, the environment has become an important issue to the British public. One poll recently found that two-thirds of 16- to 34-year-olds view the environment as a top voting priority. It is also important to those on the centre-right of politics. Bright Blue’s own research found that 89% of Conservative voters believe improving the natural environment is important. Conservatives must not let an ideological vacuum form on this issue. The case must be made for conservative solutions to protecting the environment.

It is not too late to protect Britain’s natural heritage. However, creative thinking must be offered by the centre right if we are going to protect our ‘green and pleasant land’.

Matthew Sachak is a student at the University of St Andrews, studying for an MA in Geography. He is currently undertaking a week’s work experience with Bright Blue. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.