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Green light for Squirrel Red Alert

[Thursday 06 April 2006]

The refrain, "Can we save the Red Squirrel, Yes we can" is echoing around the Wildlife Trusts of the North of England this week.

Red Squirrels facing extinction in the Yorkshire Dales and beyond have been handed a major lifeline by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Funding lifeline for Red Squirrels
Funding lifeline for Red Squirrels

The organisation - which awards grants to good causes on behalf of the National Lottery - has announced funding to help a major new initiative aimed at raising awareness about the plight of native Red Squirrels, which are extinct in most parts of mainland England.

The 'Save Our Squirrels' project has been awarded £626,000 by the Fund as part of a £1.1 million initiative to be managed and co-ordinated by Northumberland Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Red Alert North England partnership.

Red Alert is aiming to promote conservation policies that benefit the Red Squirrel and create 16 'reserves' where the threatened creature will not be pushed out by its North American cousin, the Grey Squirrel.

Welcoming the announcement, Northumberland Wildlife Trust's Chief Executive, Mike Pratt commented:

"This is great news for all concerned with the conservation of this iconic animal from England's woodlands - the real 'Squirrel Nutkin'.

"We will work with our partner Wildlife Trusts in Lancashire, North Merseyside, Cumbria & Yorkshire, with landowners and the public to implement conservation measures in the 16 designated Red Squirrel Reserves and surrounding buffer zones.

"In particular, it will enable us to involve local communities and have a wider educational role, as well as carry out more in-depth species conservation work. Thanks to this project many more people will get closer to this magical creature, possibly for the first time".

The project has been recognised nationally as being one of the most important new initiatives promoting wildlife diversity and the grant is one of the largest ever made for species conservation.

The plight of the Red Squirrel is now recognised in local, regional, national and international conservation policies - it is featured in the Bern Convention and is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, as well as being afforded the highest level of protection under UK law through the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Welcoming the funding on behalf of the Government, Forestry Minister Jim Knight said today:

"Red Squirrels' ultimate survival now depends on effective conservation measures in their last remaining strongholds so that future generations can enjoy them as an enduring part of our rich wildlife heritage. Everyone can play a part and we will be announcing in the near future how the public will be able to help Save Our Squirrels."

The funding will in part be used to facilitate a greater public access to the creatures through new viewing hides and web-cam projects.

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