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A 21st-century National Trust

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The National Trust has today launched an ambitious plan to ‘nurse the natural environment back to health’ and reverse the alarming decline in wildlife, as it warned time was running out to save the countryside from further harm.

Europe’s biggest conservation charity said climate change now poses the single biggest threat to the places the Trust looks after, bringing new, damaging threats to a natural environment already under pressure and a growing conservation challenge to its houses and gardens.

A sick patient

The countryside had been damaged by decades of unsustainable land management, which has seen intensive farming and now climate change undermine the long-term health of the land.

60% of species have declined in the UK over the last 50 years, habitats have been destroyed and over-worked soils have been washed out to sea.

Thinking big

The Trust said it would challenge itself to develop new, innovative and large-scale ways of managing land that were good for farmers, good for the economy and good for the environment.

It also pledged to work with partners to help look after some of the country’s most important landscapes, reconnecting habitats and bringing back their natural beauty.

A new chapter

The next decade will mark a new chapter in the Trust’s history, as it increasingly joins forces with other charities, government, business and local communities to improve the quality of the land and attract wildlife back to the fields, woods and river banks.

The charity, which has over 4.2m members, announced it would spend more than ever on looking after its historic houses and collections, and would also explore ways to help local communities to look after the heritage that is important to them.

The 10-year strategy

Launched today in central London, the Trust’s 10-year strategy Playing our Part – What does the nation need from the National Trust in the 21st century? outlines the Trust’s four key priorities. They include a £1bn budget dedicated to conserving houses, gardens and countryside over the next 10 years, a commitment to cutting the Trust’s energy use by 20% by 2020 and sourcing 50% of that from renewable sources on its land.

‘The protection of our natural environment and historic places over the past 100 years has been core to the work of the Trust but it has never been just about looking after our own places.

‘The natural environment is in poor health, compromised by decades of unsustainable management and under pressure from climate change. Wildlife has declined, over-worked soils are washing out to sea; villages and towns are flooded.

‘Millions of people love and cherish the great outdoors, it’s vital to our sense of well-being, our identity and our health. But beyond that nature also supports us in all kinds of other ways, from flood protection to carbon storage. We can’t keep taking it for granted.

‘Our strategy calls on the National Trust to respond to these threats and play its part in new ways: achieving a step change in how we look after our own countryside, and reaching out to partners and communities beyond our boundaries to meet the challenges we face at this moment in our history.

‘This is a long-term commitment, for the benefit of generations to come: we know that many of our changes will take thirty years or more.’

Helen Ghosh, National Trust’s Director General

The Trust has also pledged to develop new economic models of land use to share with others, and to champion the role of nature in our lives.

‘We can’t solve these issues on our own. Our strategy will see us working more collaboratively with a range of partners to explore new approaches and find new solutions. We will support where we can and lead where we should.

‘The National Trust has always responded to the challenges of the time. I believe our founders would be proud of our ambitions and the part we plan to play.’

Tim Parker, National Trust Chairman

So that members can make the most of their membership, most properties will move towards being open 364 days a year. Members and supporters will get more personalised information from the Trust about events and activities, and will be able to get much better information on digital channels about the places and subjects that interest them.

To find out more about the National Trust and all the places you can visit, have a look at its website.

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