Putting £4 million worth of squelch back into the countryside

Posted: Friday 9th October 2009

Natural England announces new funding for a ‘Wetland Vision’.

Swathes of England’s lost or degraded wetlands will be restored to their boggy beginnings, thanks to £4million worth of funding from Natural England for almost 2000 hectares of wetland recovery projects over the next two years. As the Wetland Vision project celebrates its first anniversary, this new funding will benefit grazing marshes, raised bogs, reedbeds and fragile fenland across England.

Money is being given to conservation organisations including The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB, who will work with the Environment Agency and English Heritage to manage the careful process of re-wetting the land. The restoration of watery habitats will help a multitude of wildlife including declining bird species such as snipe and redshank. Wetlands can also benefit the public by providing a natural water store to help prevent flooding.

Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive for Natural England: said: “It may be hard to imagine, but England was once a much wetter place than it is today. Around 90 percent of the soft and squelchy bogs and marshes have been lost over the last 1000 years. Healthy wetlands are a unique and vital habitat for wildlife and provide fantastic places for people to visit.

“Wetlands make important contributions to the quality of our lives. They can be important natural flood defences, helping to filter and clean our water supplies; and peat bogs lock up dangerous green house gas emissions which contribute to climate change. Since 2008 Natural England has allocated £6 million to conservation partners who are restoring these important landscapes. From Morecambe Bay to the East Anglian Fens, projects are underway across the country to put the squelch back into the countryside.”

In addition to the £4million from Natural England, partners will allocate additional funds for their individual projects. Over time these wetlands are expected to provide homes for spectacular and iconic species such as bittern and crane; white faced darter and large heath butterfly; water voles and eels; and rare plant communities of fens and raised bogs.

Sue Armstrong-Brown, RSPB head of countryside conservation, said: “Wetland habitats are very special places because not only are there many species which rely on them, but they will also play an important role in helping us adapt to climate change. The funding that has been announced today will be a real boost for our efforts to restore lost wetlands and protect existing habitats through a range of exciting projects across the UK.

“The Wetland Vision is more relevant now than ever because there are some really big changes taking place in the way we manage water, including the EU’s Water Framework Directive and the Government’s Floods and Water Bill which will come up in parliament later this year. We now have a shared vision of where we want our wetlands to be by 2050, and if we can achieve that we will have done something amazing for our natural world.”

The Environment Agency is delighted with the news of this extra funding for wetlands. Alastair Driver, Conservation Policy Manager said "The Environment Agency is a key deliverer of the Wetland Vision for England, and we are well underway with an ambitious programme of large-scale wetland habitat creation, with 200 hectares of freshwater wetland habitat created in 2008/09 and a further 700 hectares to be created over the next two years.

He added: "This extra £4M from Natural England, enables the Wetland Vision partnership to deliver even more new habitat at some of our project sites, as well as at other sites which are not on the Agency's programme, thus improving the overall quality and quantity of England's wetland resource."

Wetland projects to receive funding over the next two years include the East Anglian fens, Humberhead Levels, Midlands Meres and Mosses, Morecambe Bay Wetlands, the Somerset Levels and the River Till in Northumberland.

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