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North Yorkshire's wildlife sites fare badly in new report

[Thursday 23 February 2006]

The latest assessment of England's premier wildlife sites has found that almost seventy percent are now in a favourable condition.

The report, published by English Nature, looked at Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) across the country and concluded that 69.8 percent - equivalent to nearly 750 000 Hectares - of the land covered is being managed to keep it in a favourable condition.

Over grazing blamed for North Yorkshire's poor record on SSSI's
Over grazing blamed for North Yorkshire's
poor record on SSSI's

Despite the good news nationally, SSSI's in the Yorkshire and Humber region are not faring quite so well. Only 58.3 percent - 37 000 Hectares - of SSSI land across the region are in a favourable condition.

In North Yorkshire this figure is reduced still further to 55.8 percent. English Nature has identified several reasons for the shortfall including, over-grazing of moorland habitats, inappropriate moorland burning and the use of inappropriate drainage.

The government has set a target of improving SSSI's so that 95 per cent are in favourable condition by 2010, an objective that will be left to a new statutory organisation.

From October this year, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service will merge to create Natural England. The new agency will deal with all countryside matters.

The publication of the report was welcomed by Dr Andy Brown, English Nature's Chief Executive, saying: "Bringing this much of our most precious wildlife sites in to good condition is a great achievement.

"It is a credit to our conservation officers who have visited and assessed every site and the 32,000 land managers who take action on the ground".

While the report does show that improvement has taken place on SSSI's, the conservation charity RSPB is pointing out that they also show that 30 percent of sites still need work to fulfil their potential for harbouring wildlife.

Dr Mark Avery, Director of Conservation at the RSPB said: "English Nature has made good progress, but with almost a third of England's best wildlife sites still in poor condition, the hardest job is yet to be done.

"The 2010 target will only be achieved if the government adequately backs restoration of the remaining sites. Funding for schemes enabling farmers to restore land for the benefit of the environment will be particularly crucial."

An extra 130 000 Hectares of SSSI land has been brought up to standard since English Nature carried out its first assessment back in 2003.

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