Project to marry profit with nature benefits

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Local farmers are working together to gain the greatest economic returns from high biodiversity farming methods.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are working with farmers in Upper Wharfedale and the North Pennines to look at the ways in which traditional farming systems could be adapted to deliver environmental benefits more effectively, while also making farm businesses more economically viable.

The project is one of four ‘High Nature Value’ farming case studies that are being developed under the auspices of the Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership (LNP) with support from Natural England.

Helen Keep, the YDNPA’s senior farm conservation officer, said: “High Nature Value farming systems – like the ones in this National Park – support high levels of biodiversity and deliver other important public benefits like carbon and water storage. However, farming here is marginal and difficult and the many benefits these farmers deliver on behalf of society can often feel like a burden to them. This project is all about trying to improve that situation.”

Marian Wilby, farm conservation adviser for Nidderdale AONB, said: “Hill farming has always been a seen as difficult and challenging. For too long now we have allowed this negative image to get in the way of a proper understanding of the contribution made by farming in the Dales to the surrounding area. The idea of High Nature Value Farming is helping us to see things in a new light.”

On Monday, a coalition of 16 environmental organisations launched a manifesto for High Nature Value farming, calling on governments, the farming community, environmental groups and citizens to provide support for nature in HNV areas.