Nature Improvement Areas: Thousands more hectares for our wildlife

Wednesday 20th January 2016

NIA at Sedgley Beacon NIA at Sedgley Beacon

A new report shows that The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country has made a big contribution to nearly 20,000 hectares of natural habitat – the equivalent of almost 23,000 football pitches – being created, restored or preserved across England over the past three years as part of an innovative £7.5 million government project.

Published today, the ‘Monitoring and Evaluation of Nature Improvement Areas: Final Report’ showcases the achievements of the 12 Nature Improvement Areas (including the only urban one led by The Wildlife Trust here across Birmingham and the Black Country) – established in 2012 with funding from Defra and Natural England – in helping protect wildlife and connect people with nature, while providing a boost to rural economies.

From the vast green plains of the Humberhead Levels to the post-industrial landscapes of Birmingham and the Black Country, the three-year initiative saw local authorities, communities, conservation groups and the private sector come together to change and improve local areas in both rural and urban locations. This unique partnership approach means these natural spaces now not only provide a sanctuary for wildlife to thrive, but also ensure people can enjoy them for generations to come.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:

“Our beautiful natural environment is vitally important to our national identity. By combining government investment with community action these 12 Nature Improvement Areas have delivered real results for local environments and have built a justifiable sense of pride - bringing an astonishing 47,000 days of volunteer time to the natural world.

“We owe a huge thanks to the many many people who made these projects possible. We must now look to make sure these remarkable results are long lasting and help to connect the British public with nature. The work of the Nature Improvement Areas will be central to how we think about the environment over the next twenty-five years.”

In total, work across the areas has preserved or enhanced over 13,500 hectares of habitat, such as the 1,700 hectares of woodland and wetland in Morecambe Bay, while an additional 5,000 hectares of habitat has been created, providing much-needed homes for our precious wildlife.

The Nature Improvement Areas have also helped people reconnect with nature, with volunteers contributing over 47,000 days, school children earning their green fingers by planting trees, and communities getting involved in decision making.

Thanks to work carried out through the initiative, the areas could now see a boost to tourism, helping to generate jobs and enhance our valuable rural economy which is worth £210 billion to the UK’s growing prosperity.

Natural England Chairman Andrew Sells said:

“I warmly congratulate all 12 Nature Improvement Areas on the enormous contribution they have made to conservation in such a short space of time. It is clear that this approach to coordinated landscape scale activity in England has delivered multiple benefits.

“The positive lessons learnt from this initiative serve as shining examples of what can be achieved by an 'outcomes focussed partnership approach' and I hope that inspires others to follow suit in the future.”

Learnings from the Nature Improvement Areas will now help to inform Defra’s 25 year plan for action on the environment which will be published later in the year as part of a comprehensive, long-term vision to protect the country’s natural heritage.

In 2015 The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country was successful in gaining £300,000 of funding from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to continue their work on projects for the Nature Improvement Area for another three years. This is already underway with many exciting projects being carried out to bring further benefits to the people and wildlife of the urban area.

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Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Birmingham, Black country, Nature Improvement Area, NIA