An important part of the UK’s biodiversity legislation is the Wildlife and Countryside act of 1981 (amended 1991), which protects threatened species and their habitat. It does so through listing species that require special actions in its annexes. It is also important due to the fact that it enacts several of the EC directives and conventions and binds the UK’s environment position with that of the EC.
Since the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 there have been various amendments to the Act, most significantly through the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 which applies to England and Wales and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 which applies in Scotland. The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act extends to all public bodies the biodiversity duty of section 74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW), which places a duty on Government and public bodies to have regard to biodiversity in their activities and to draw up a list of habitats and species of principal importance.
Compliance with the following European directives is required as a minimum requirement: the Habitats Directive – Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora and the Wild Birds Directive - Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds.
The Habitats Directive together with the Birds Directive forms the cornerstone of Europe's nature conservation policy. It is built around two pillars: the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the strict system of species protection. The directive protects over 1.000 animals and plant species and over 200 "habitat types" (e.g. special types of forests, meadows, wetlands, etc.), which are of European importance.