Fracking and wildlife

Fracking and Wildlife

Climate change is presenting a significant and serious long-term threat to biodiversity and people across the world. All forms of energy generation will entail some environmental costs and we believe that the risks and benefits associated with each need to be weighed against each other and considered in the context of location and scale.Yorkshire Wildlife Trust believes we need:

  • a reduction in energy demand and for energy efficiency measures to provide the central focus of the Government’s approach to sustainable energy policy;
  • a reduction in dependency on fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil);
  • Government funding prioritised on the development and implementation of renewable technologies;
  • the restoration of ecosystems, such as peatlands to absorb carbon (and a range of other natural services) to help mitigate and adapt to human induced climate change. 


Fracking presents a number of environmental risks to wildlife and society. In the dash for shale gas, we have particular concerns that this is running ahead of effective regulations to minimise and eliminate the serious risks. The Wildlife Trusts are particularly concerned about the impact on:

  • water quality (surface and ground water contamination) and quantity (water stress and availability);
  • habitats, species and ecosystems (disturbance, damage, loss and fragmentation)
  • Climate Change (through increased greenhouse gas emissions)

In 2014, in partnership with the Angling Trust, The National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association, and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, The Wildlife Trusts published Are We Fit To Frack? The report made ten recommendations to make the regulatory framework for the shale gas industry, fit for purpose.

One recommendation was to ‘avoid sensitive areas for wildlife by creating shale gas extraction exclusion zones’. In January 2015, the UK Government took steps towards this recommendation by committing to ‘an outright ban on fracking in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)’ alongside National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)'. But just eight months later, a major U-turn on this commitment has placed some of the country’s most sensitive and precious wildlife sites at risk by excluding SSSIs from the ban.

In August 2015, Government announced 27 new licence areas for shale gas exploration and extraction. A further 132 licences are expected to be announced before the end of 2015. Collectively, these 159 licence areas include 293 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 188 Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves – all of which could now be at risk from fracking.

Under current proposals 31 Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves are within licence areas and an additional 35 nature reserves are within 500 metres of another area awaiting further assessment. The Trust is very concerned that 91 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) across Yorkshire are also within these licencing areas.

The Wildlife Trusts, along with other conservation organisations want to see fracking ruled out from in and around all Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Ramsar (wetland) sites, Local Wildlife Sites and Nature Reserves. These wild refuges are recognised and valued at an international, national and a local level, and should be afforded protection.

Summary - Are we fit to frack?

List of protected sites at risk from fracking

How you can help

It is not too late for Government to take action and ban fracking from in and around our most important wildlife havens. As Government prepares to offer these new licences to companies to explore and drill for shale gas and oil by fracking, The Wildlife Trusts are working jointly with RSPB, CPRE and The Campaign for National Parks to ask Government to fulfil its promise and ensure our natural treasures are protected for people and wildlife.

Have your say and show what protected areas mean to you by writing to your MP - find your MP's address here.