Wildlife species 'could be lost within 10 years'
A survey of UK farmers has revealed that 96% think environmental work on their farms would be impacted if payments for wildlife-friendly farming were stopped or reduced.
The RSPB conducted the survey to determine the effect on so-called agri-environment schemes, amid fears that budget cuts are imminent.
Results showed that 51% of farmers asked said they believe the environmental work would be impacted "severely", and 7% think it would "stop" altogether.
Only 4% said environmental work on their farms would be unaffected.
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The wildlife charity claims that "signals" coming from politicians in Europe and the UK point to an uncertain future for the 25-year-old EUfunding.
It said a reduction could spell disaster for wildlife in England and abroad.
Widespread but declining species such as the skylark and yellowhammer rely on the work, as do less well-known species, including cirl bunting and stone-curlew.
RSPB South West spokesman Tony Whitehead said species could be lost from our countryside "within a decade".
The poll also revealed how the payments maintain the financial viability of some farm businesses.
Some 71% said the schemes were important; 8% claimed they are "completely vital".