The launch of a public consultation into environmental legislation has been described by a conservation charity as an opportunity to "turn the tide" on the decline of nature here.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said yesterday it welcomed news of the consultation for an Environment and Nature Restoration Bill.
John Martin, head of policy at RSPB NI, said it showed that nature restoration was "being made a priority" at the Assembly,
"Now, more than ever, people are recognising the benefits of nature and connecting with outdoors, wildlife and green spaces for not only wellbeing, but for health and economic prosperity," he said.
"In Northern Ireland, 74% of people want new laws and polices put in place to better protect nature; and on experiencing lockdown, 75% say that they have appreciated access to local green spaces.
"The public recognise the need for our Assembly to act to protect our precious natural resources and the demand for stronger laws is clear.
"We welcome this consultation, as going forward it is vital that any new legislation matches the nature emergency and the growing mandate from the public for change."
Mr Martin stressed the Bill had come at a time when nature desperately needed restoration.
"Despite commitments made by the Executive to reverse nature's decline in the 2015 Biodiversity Strategy, the Executive has failed to deliver the majority of its objectives," he said.
"Northern Ireland has lost more wildlife than anywhere else in the UK, making new legislation vital if the government intends to deliver on its commitments to halt the devastating decline.
"The State of Nature Report across the island of Ireland shows that 11% of species are at risk of extinction, including common garden birds such as starlings and house sparrows."
Last month Environment Minister Edwin Poots launched a consultation on the Executive's first ever Climate Change Bill, which he said he hoped will "revolutionise our approach to climate change, slash our greenhouse gas emissions (and) help protect our environment, create jobs and sustain our economy".
Consultation on it will run until February 1.
The RSPB, as part of its Revive Our World campaign, is also pushing for legally binding targets to restore nature by 2030 and for a post-pandemic green recovery plan.
For more information visit rspb.org.uk.