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Volume 688: debated on Thursday 25 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people volunteer their time to help conserve and enhance the natural environment.[HL1461]

The work being done by volunteers for the natural environment is hugely valuable and much appreciated.

Volunteering England's 1997 National Survey of Volunteering showed that 48 per cent of the adult population are involved in formal volunteering work (that is, through an organisation). Of this number, 5 per cent did so to conserve and enhance the natural environment. These figures are based on the main purpose of the group or organisation through which the person volunteers. The latest version of this survey—the National Survey of Volunteering and Charitable Giving—is due later this year.

An objective in the England Biodiversity Strategy is to increase time spent and number of people volunteering for biodiversity conservation. The indicator for this shows positive progress; for example, the number of Wildlife Trust volunteers has increased by 28 per cent from 21,600 to 27,700 over the five years to 2005.

In addition, Natural England is also working to increase the ability of individuals to take action for the natural environment. Nearly 2,000 volunteers work with Natural England on its national nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest. In 2005-06 the value of this work was assessed at £1.8 million. Natural England has a target to increase volunteer involvement by 5 per cent.