Nature Improvement Areas - vital to butterflies

New nature zones covering hundreds of thousands of hectares are to be set up across England, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman revealed today.

The 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) announced today will each get a share of £7.5 million to create wildlife havens, restore habitats and encourage local people to get involved with nature.

From creating heathland on brownfield sites, a seven hectare lagoon and a network of wildlife-friendly dewponds to improving the conditions for birds, butterflies and amphibians, these 12 sites will provide the space for our wildlife to thrive.

Local groups have worked together on proposals for how they intend to use the money to improve their local nature sites for the enjoyment of the public and the benefit of wildlife.

The 12 successful NIAs have been chosen from among 76 groups who competed to receive funding for their project.

Mrs Spelman said: "Each of these projects has something different to offer - from the urban areas of Birmingham and the Black Country to the rivers and woods of North Devon; from marshes, coalfields and wetlands to woodland and arable chalkland and grassland.

"The exciting wildlife projects are the result of different organisations all working together with a common purpose - to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come."

Butterfly Conservation is delighted that two of the chosen areas cover landscapes identified as important for rare butterfly species. Funding from the NIA will help continue vital work to protect them and their habitat.

Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands: the most northerly NIA, this consists of limestone, wetland and grassland habitats.

It will restore coast and freshwater wetlands and create 200 hectares of woodland, planting 10,000 native trees and develop habitat for six species including the High Brown Fritillary butterfly.

South Downs Way Ahead: encompasses key chalk sites of the South Downs National Park. The NIA will restore 1,000 hectares of chalk grassland and encourage the return of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly and several species of farmland birds.

Dr Dan Hoare, Butterfly Conservation's Senior Regional Officer for South East England, said:
"The South Downs is home to some of our most iconic chalk grassland butterflies like the Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue, and rapidly declining species like the Duke of Burgundy and Chalk Carpet moth.

"This project has butterflies and moths at its heart, using their populations to monitor the health of the countryside and creating new and improved habitats for butterflies and other wildlife along the length of the South Downs Way National Trail.

"Butterfly Conservation is delighted to be working with the South Downs National Park Authority, landowners and other partners to secure the future of this precious landscape. People can look forward to seeing butterflies and moths thriving in the South Downs for years to come."