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Pioneering conservation project steps up

Last modified: 07 October 2011

Trees and hedgerows in a mixed farming landscape, Yorkshire

Image: Andy Hay

A revolutionary new approach to conservation in the UK is moving up a gear with a major funding boost and a new team of staff.


The UK has a long history of nature reserves which are home to some of our most threatened species. But conservationists are moving in a new direction, with reserves at the centre of a wider, landscape scale approach to protecting wildlife.


The RSPB’s Futurescapes programme is seeing projects springing up across the country. Within each Futurescape conservationists are working in partnership with farmers, landowners, local authorities and the community to put in place a plan for wildlife.


After being launched last year the programme is set to step up in its scope having secured £2million of funding from the EU’s Life+ Programme. This will be matched by another £2million from the RSPB’s members and will pay for seven new staff - a positive early step on the long road to delivering on the ambitions for this programme


Futurescapes is the RSPB’s contribution to the need for landscape scale conservation across the UK. It complements a growing range of other initiatives including work being done by the Wildlife Trusts through its Living Landscapes programme and the Government through its proposals for £7.5 million to be spent on 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs).


The seven new Futurescapes managers will be employed across the UK with one each in Northern Ireland and Wales, two in Scotland and three in England.


Aidan Lonergan, RSPB Futurescapes Manager, said: “Conservation is responding to serious challenges and it is really exciting to be there at the forefront of this new way of protecting nature in partnership with others. We can no longer rely on managing fragments of our countryside for wildlife – we need to ensure that the surrounding landscape is delivering as well.


“We’re looking for seven people who can sell this fantastic idea to farmers, councillors, landowners, water companies and everyone else who helps shape our towns and countryside.


“Unfortunately woodpeckers and watervoles don’t read maps, so assigning them a grid reference just isn’t going to work. As the pressure on our land increases it is clear that we need to create robust ecological networks that deliver for wildlife across some of our most beautiful landscapes.”


One of the new conservation managers will be tasked with overseeing the RSPB’s flagship Greater Thames Futurescape. The area covers more than 1,000 km² and includes estuary, mudflats and grazing marsh which provides a vital habitat for thousands of wildfowl and wading birds. More than 70 different organisations are already working in partnership on the project.


Other Futurescapes projects to get new dedicated staff area based around Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, Loch Leven and Strathspey in Scotland, Gwent Levels in Wales and Morecombe Bay and the Trent Valley in England.

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