Devon Environment Foundation Scoping Report

Tucked away on the South West peninsula, straddling two coastlines, Devon is one of the largest, least densely populated counties in Britain. Its diverse mix of landscapes encompasses two moorland National Parks, five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, one UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and a patchwork of woodlands, wetlands, meadows, hedgerows, rivers, and estuaries – many of which are designated SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and habitats of international importance.

Many globally threatened species are found locally, including the European eel, freshwater pearl mussel, short snouted seahorse, and pink sea fan. Additionally, the area is important for many of England’s ‘natural treasures’ including Atlantic ferns, mosses, breeding sea birds, veteran trees, and wintering and passage water birds. It also provides a stronghold for rare species such as the greater horseshoe bat and

Devon has twice as many tourism businesses than the national average and four times more farming. In recent decades, conventional farming has resulted in degraded soil, increased run-off, flooding, and biodiversity loss. Meanwhile, Devon’s marine environment is suffering from industrial pollution, run-off, sewage, sea level rise, over-exploitation of fisheries, and plastic pollution – leading to degraded marine habitats.

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. To rectify this, experts recommend we return a third of all space on land and in the sea to nature. As a rural county with an abundance of space, Devon’s goal could be much higher. An appropriately ambitious target would be for half of Devon’s land and sea to be ‘managed for nature’ by 2030.

Increasing biodiversity in Devon would benefit three major sectors of the local economy:

  • Good for tourism: opportunity to run wildlife safaris, educate around nature, promote staycations and the value of our native wildlife, and tap into a renewed appreciation of nature since Covid-19
  • Good for agriculture: farming with nature increases wildlife, carbon sequestration, and soil and crop quality; and reduces flooding, soil erosion, and pollution – better for wildlife and people.
  • Good for fishing: collaborative management of the fisheries for biodiversity gives fishermen more autonomy, they work less and catch more, and can then sell ‘reserve seafood’ for higher profits.


Most Devonians are passionate about their natural environment because it’s an important part of what makes their home special, so they want to protect it. There are many wonderful, grass roots community projects happening in Devon, but there’s plenty of scope to help them to scale and replicate their impact.

The overarching goal of the Devon Environment Fund is to connect the funders with the ‘doers’. A little funding goes a long way to help these groups realise their goals, and enable them to expand or share best practice to replicate the benefits in neighbouring areas.

If you’d like to support our work, you can make a meaningful difference and help restore Devon’s beautiful natural environment by contributing funds to the DEF and/or designating land for DEF projects.

Find out more about how we intend to protect and restore nature in Devon in our detailed Scoping Report below: