Matt with James Robinson, RSPB Director for Eastern England, at the Parliamentary Species Champion launch event.

Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness, has become one of the first MP species champion in England after lending his support to the redshank, a bird known for its brightly coloured “shanks” or legs.

Iconic and threatened English species are being ‘adopted’ by MPs across England, who are acting as ‘Species Champions’ to help improve the species’ future. From the smooth snake to the nightingale, 20 English species currently facing significant threats have been identified and put up for ‘adoption’ by MPs.

The initiative was launched this month by a coalition of seven nature NGOs – RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Buglife, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Plantlife and Bat Conservation Trust. This follows a successful model in Scotland, and a trial in the South West of England in 2014.

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Matt with Rob Lucking, RSPB Area Manager for Lincolnshire, North Norfolk and The Brecks, looking for redshank at Frampton Marsh.

Matt said, “The redshank is a beautiful bird and I am delighted to be its champion in Westminster. With so many species in decline across the UK it is fantastic that MPs are coming together to stand up for wildlife in this way. I look forward to working with the RSPB in the future as the scheme progresses to see what more I can do to help nature in my constituency, such as at Frampton Marsh.”

Redshanks breed on the ground in damp areas on the coast, but also inland. British redshanks spend the winter here, mainly on estuaries, where they will be joined by many more that bred in Iceland. Redshank declines have been driven by the loss or degradation of habitat, including saltmarsh. Conservation efforts include improving the management of saltmarsh, and further research into the causes of declines and how best to respond.

Species Champions will be able to learn first-hand about their species from wildlife NGOs and shown how we can help species populations recover. It is hoped the work will provide a brighter future for the species, spread that knowledge throughout the political community and shape policy to improve its future.

Martin Harper, RSPB Director of Conservation, commented “England is home to fantastic wildlife, but many of our most iconic species are in decline. By working with MPs to tell the stories of these species, we hope to raise awareness of their plight and the practical action and policy decisions needed to turn their fortunes around. We’re delighted so many MPs have come on board to give nature a strong voice in Parliament.”

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