Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Chapter 69
Online only
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 remains one of the most important pieces of wildlife legislation in Great Britain, but it is important to be aware that this document is as it was and does not represent the Act as it currently stands.


Disclaimer: By following the links below, it is possible to download a scanned copy of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as at the time when it received Royal Assent. The Act remains one of the most important pieces of wildlife legislation in Great Britain, but it is important to be aware that this document does not represent the Act as it currently stands.
Please Note:
  • Since the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 there have been various amendments to the text of the Act, most significantly through the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 (in England and Wales) and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (in Scotland), but also through other legislation including the Local Government Act 1985, the Water Act 1989, and the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (PLEASE NOTE: This is not a complete list of amending legislation).
  • There have also been changes to the species listed in the schedules, through Variations to the Schedules Orders. There is a statutory five-yearly review of Schedules 5 and 8 (protected wild animals and plant respectively), undertaken by the statutory conservation agencies and coordinated through JNCC, but changes to the Schedules can be made by the Secretary of State at any time, if it is considered necessary because of a threat of extinction or in response to international obligations. JNCC maintain a central spreadsheet of conservation designations for all taxa which includes any changes to the Schedules 1, 5 and 8 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
  • When citing any legislation, it is important to check whether any parts of it have been amended (or repealed) by later Acts or Statutory Instruments. Most UK legislation introduced since 1988 is available online from http://www.legislation.gov.uk/browse. If necessary, a qualified legal adviser should be consulted for definitive guidance over what legislation may be applicable, and its interpretation.
Download Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Download in sections: See disclaimer


Protection of birds
  1. Protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs.
  2. Exceptions to s. 1.
  3. Areas of special protection.
  4. Exceptions to ss. 1 and 3.
  5. Prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild birds.
  6. Sale etc. of live or dead birds, eggs etc.
  7. Registration etc. of certain captive wild birds.
  8. Protection of captive birds.
Protection of other animals.
  1. Protection of certain wild animals.
  2. Exceptions to s.9.
  3. Prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild animals.
  4. Protection of certain mammals.
Protection of plants
  1. Protection of wild plants.
  1. Introduction of new species etc.
  2. Endangered species (import and export).
    1. Power to grant licences
    2. False statements made for obtaining registration or licence etc.
    3. Attempts to commit offences etc.
    4. Enforcement.
    5. Summary prosecutions.
    6. Penalties, forfeitures etc.
    7. Power to vary Schedules
    8. Advisory bodies and their functions
    9. Functions of Nature Conservancy Council
    10. Functions of local authorities
    11. Regulations, orders, notices etc.
  1. Interpretation of Part I.


Nature Conservation
  1. Areas of special scientific interest.
  2. Special protection for certain areas of special scientific interest.
  3. Compensation where order is made under s. 29.
  4. Restoration where order under s. 29 is contravened.
  5. Duties of agriculture Ministers with respect to areas of special scientific interest.
  6. Ministerial guidance as respects areas of special scientific interest.
  7. Limestone pavement orders.
  8. National nature reserves.
  9. Marine nature reserves.
  10. Byelaws for protection of marine nature reserves.
  11. Grants and loans by Nature Conservancy Council.
  1. Management agreements with owners and occupiers of land.
  2. Experimental schemes.
  3. Duties of agriculture Ministers with respect to the countryside.
National Parks
  1. Notification of agricultural operations on moor and heath in National Parks.
  2. Maps of National Parks showing certain areas of moor or heath.
  3. Grants and loans for purposes of National Parks.
  4. Power to vary order designating National Park.
  5. Membership of National Park authorities.
Miscellaneous and supplemental
  1. Provisions with respect to the Countryside Commission.
  2. Duties of water authorities etc. with respect to nature conservation and the countryside.
  3. Extension of power to appoint wardens.
  4. Payments under certain agreements offered by authorities.
  5. Powers of entry
  6. Interpretation of Part II.

Public Rights of Way.

Ascertainment of public rights of way.
  1. Duty to keep definitive map and statement under continuous review.
  2. Duty to reclassify roads used as public paths.
  3. No further surveys or reviews under the 1949 Act.
  4. Effect of definitive map and statement.
  5. Supplementary provisions as to definitive maps and statements.
  6. Application of ss. 53 to 576 to inner London.
Miscellaneous and supplemental
  1. Prohibition on keeping bulls on land crossed by public rights of way.
  2. Regulation of traffic on public rights of way.
  3. Ploughing of public rights of way.
  4. Appointment of wardens for public rights of way.
  5. Orders creating, extinguishing or diverting footpaths and bridleways.
  6. Signposting of byways open to all traffic.
  7. Interpretation of Part III.

Miscellaneous and General

  1. Application to Crown.
  2. Application to the Isles of Scilly.
  3. Offices by bodies incorporate etc.
  4. Financial provisions.
  5. General interpretation.
  6. Minor amendments.
  7. Repeals and savings.
  8. Short title, commencement and extent.

Schedules: Please note - these are the original Schedules see disclaimer

Part I – at all times.
Part II – During the close season.
Part I – Outside the close season.
Part II – By authorised persons at all times.
Part I – alive at all times if ringed and bred in captivity.
Part II – Dead at all times.
Part III – Dead from 1st September to 28th February.
Part I – Animals which are established in the wild.
Part II – Plants.
Part I – The Amendments.
Part II – Schedule inserted as Schedule 4.
Part III – Schedule inserted as Schedule 5.
Part I – Enactments repealed one month after the passing of this Act.
Part II – Enactments repealed on a day to be appointed.
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Please cite as: , (1981), Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Online only