Natural value of Parks at mercy of fund cuts

The North York Moors has the country's largest continuous expanse of heather moorland.  Picture:  Mike Kipling/North York Moors National Park Authority
The North York Moors has the country's largest continuous expanse of heather moorland. Picture: Mike Kipling/North York Moors National Park Authority
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THE IMPORTANCE to wildlife of protecting some of the country’s most cherished landscapes from damaging budget cuts has been laid bare in a new report published today.

England’s ten National Parks have seen their government grants shrink by 40 per cent over the last five years, and the austerity has meant some conservation work has had to be scaled back.

But an assessment by umbrella body National Parks England has found that the Parks are among the best places in the country for wildlife, providing homes for many of the most rare and threatened plants and animals.

The study found that while National Parks cover less than a tenth of the country’s land, they contain much higher proportions of the most wildlife-rich habitats such as heaths, fens and ancient woodlands.

Up to 80 per cent of some habitats identified as national priorities for conservation are within the National Parks, the study found, with 87 per cent of conservation priority butterfly species and four-fifths of priority orchid species within their boundaries.

Dedicated management and reintroduction projects are helping species such as the fen raft spider, the freshwater pearl mussel and the barn owl to thrive and increase their range, National Parks England said.

And it believes that National Park designation has provided the extra protection species need to flourish, allowing park authorities to work with landowners, communities, charities and agencies to deliver conservation measures.

The task of protecting wildlife is important to the economy too, as 90 million people visit England’s National Parks every year to see nature at its best.

Jim Bailey, chairman of both National Parks England and the North York Moors National Park Authority, said to secure this natural value for the future, continued protection needs to be maintained across all National Parks.

Mr Bailey said: “National Parks hold sites of national and international importance, and as National Park Authorities we take seriously our role in looking after such special places.

“Against a backdrop of national declines in many species, we have seen notable successes. For example, the latest data on high brown fritillary butterflies on Exmoor shows the highest numbers since records began.”

In the North York Moors, which has the country’s largest continuous expanse of heather moorland, £7 million has spent over the last 25 years on funding farmers to carry out conservation work.

The Yorkshire Dales contains almost a third of the country’s upland hay meadows and is the only wild site in England for the Lady’s-Slipper Orchid, while the Peak District is the only place in the world where the Derbyshire Feather-Moss grows.

The Peak District’s upland ash woodlands are the largest of their type in Great Britain.

Grants aid farm careers

More than £95,000 has been allocated to rural projects in Yorkshire in a new round of funding from the Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Bishop Burton College, Beverley, will use £45,600 to provide training for 24 young people who currently hold managerial positions in farming or a rural business to help them run their businesses more effectively.

Some £49,870 has also been awarded to the Yorkshire Moors Agricultural Apprenticeship Scheme so it can take on 10 new apprentices for 18 months. Each apprentice gain professional agricultural qualifications and will gain experience working on upland farms.