Protesters took to the streets on Monday in a bid to save important nature sites in the West Midlands from being affected by swingeing funding cuts.
Campaigners are calling for the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to be preserved during the wave of impending cutbacks.
The protesters toured Meriden - the constituency of Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman MP – with banners, signs and even a campaigner dressed in a house sparrow costume to voice their concerns ahead of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
Local residents said any cuts could worsen the potential impact on the region’s farmland, already under threat by plans for a high speed rail link from London to Birmingham.
It is feared cuts to Defra’s budget could top more than 25 per cent by 2014, affecting bodies which care for wildlife, woodlands and rivers such as Natural England and the Environment Agency.
The RSPB say the “swingeing cuts” could hamper efforts to preserve Sites of Special Scientific Interest, such as Sutton Park, Edgbaston Pool and the River Blythe in Meriden, as well as a scheme working with local farmers to protect dwindling numbers of farmland birds.
RSPB spokesman Andy Waters said: “The main message is that we appreciate there are going to have to be tough decisions made, but the environment budget shouldn’t be cut.
“Defra’s budget is comparatively small but it has such huge benefits.
“There’s so much momentum with farmers doing good things for wildlife, particularly farmland birds like yellowhammers and grey partridges. They really do need us to be working with the farming community.”
Gill Lewis, chair of Hampton-in-Arden Parish Council backed the charity’s campaign, adding: “The high speed rail is going to take a large amount of farmland – something like 2,000 acres.
“All we seem to have heard from are businesses saying how much the scheme is needed. But the economic and environmental advantages have not been proven, and it’s going to have a big impact on the countryside and landscape.”