Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are areas in Britain which have been identified as having special wildlife and geological significance. In 2000, DEFRA was set the public service agreement target of ensuring 95 per cent of England's SSSIs are in a favourable or recovering condition by 2010. This target has proved very challenging, having been set using what later proved to be overly optimistic estimates. The Committee's report finds that DEFRA, English Nature and the owners of SSSIs have so far responded admirably to the challenge, but a number of far-reaching changes are required in order to meet the target, including effective targeting of agro-environment schemes. DEFRA must ensure public bodies, other than English Nature, are aware of their responsibilities and that all SSSI landowners know about available sources of funding and advice. The Committee also raises concerns that funding for English Nature, agri-environment schemes and wider policy changes will not be sufficient to bring enough SSSIs into favourable condition in time.
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