Some of the UK's most threatened species will be brought back from the brink of extinction, as part of an ambitious £4.6 million project funded by the National Lottery.

As part of the Back From the Brink project Butterfly Conservation will lead efforts to reintroduce the Chequered Skipper back to England after the butterfly became extinct in the 1970s.

The project will also address the needs of threatened species in 150 key habitats and landscapes across England from the Yorkshire Dales to Cornwall.  

The scheme will also focus on saving some very rare and elusive species from extinction, including the Shrill Carder Bee, Ladybird Spider and Northern Dune Tiger Beetle.  

The funding will also help a further 200 species that while not facing extinction are under threat including the Grey Long-eared Bat, Pine Martin, Willow Tit, Black-tailed Godwit and Lesser Butterfly Orchid.

Back from the Brink is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species. 

Natural England, the government’s wildlife advisory body, will work in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and the RSPB to pool expertise, develop new ways of working and inspire people across the country to discover, value and act for threatened animals plants and fungi.

The programme aims to inspire a nation to discover value and act for threatened species by encouraging them to love and value species on their doorstep and take steps to help them.

The project plans to return the Chequered Skipper to Rockingham Forest, near Corby, Northants, in the East Midlands.

Prior to extinction in England the butterfly, arguably the most attractive of the skippers, was once found in a strip of woodland and limestone grassland from Oxfordshire to Lincolnshire, but the East Midlands has always been its stronghold.

It is thought that the butterfly died out in England as a result of the decline in coppicing in woodlands which led to its preferred habitat becoming overgrown.

As part of the project, Butterfly Conservation plans to protect other threatened butterfly species including the Duke of BurgundyWood WhiteMarsh Fritillary and Large Blue as well as moths including the Liquorice Piercer and Barred Tooth-striped.

This ground-breaking programme will:

  • Safeguard 20 species from extinction
  • Directly improve the conservation prospects of a further 200
  • Recruit and teach more than 5,500 volunteers new skills to study, identify and care for threatened species.
  • Engage with landowner and communities to deliver conservation at 150 different locations across England

Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells said: “We are delighted to be part of this dynamic partnership, which is inspiring us to deliver more for the environment, nature, and people than ever before. 

“Bringing our threatened species back from the brink is a big challenge and is not in the gift of any one organisation or sector. But by pooling resources and developing new ideas and encouraging everyone to participate it will enable us to save many precious threatened species. Unless we act now, we run the risk of losing them, which is why this project is so crucial to their future as well as our own and we are hugely grateful to HLF for having the insight to help us deliver this ambitious approach to nature conservation.”

Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Ros Kerslake said: “I am delighted we are able to fund this important and groundbreaking project. We’re all ultimately dependent on our ecosystem and these creatures are like canaries in the mine. Thanks to a combination of National Lottery funding and expertise from across multiple agencies and conservation charities, we can make a positive and lasting change before it is too late.”

Mike Clarke the RSPB’s chief executive said: “Our natural world is in trouble, last year’s State of Nature report revealed that the population of over half of UK species are in decline, but we believe it is not too late to take action. Today’s announcement by the National Lottery will make a big difference to some of our most threatened species that, without action, may soon be lost forever. The Back from the Brink project is bringing together specialists from many of our biggest and most effective conservation organisations to support the governments of the UK in meeting our obligations to the UN and international community to protect our most threatened species from extinction. This funding will be invaluable in our efforts to ensure future generations inherit a thriving and diverse natural environment.”

Julie Williams, CEO of Butterfly Conservation said, “We are delighted that National Lottery have recognised and rewarded this multi-organisational partnership to deliver something special for our threatened species. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts and we look forward to working with our partners to demonstrate that and make an even bigger difference.”

Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife said, “Bugs, beetles, ants, spiders and other invertebrates make up the majority of species on the brink of extinction. It is fantastic that this pathfinding partnership project will pull back so many species that could otherwise disappear forever.  Our natural environment has never been more imperilled, dedicated work to rescue endangered plants and animals is a cornerstone of any sensible broader strategy to restore a thriving country.”

Marian Spain, CEO of Plantlife saidWe are delighted to be joining forces with other leading conservation organisations to save some of our very rarest and most threatened wildlife.  The dramatically declining lesser butterfly orchid and Cornish path moss, which is now found at only two sites in the world, are an important part of our heritage and it is incumbent on us to preserve them for future generations.  They are teetering on the brink of extinction and we must not allow them to fall away.

“People are at the heart of this programme and they are vital to its success.  We want people to be inspired by their precious local wildlife and, just as importantly, have great fun in the process. Get mud on your boots, pick a few wildflowers, learn the names of lichens, count birds and butterflies, take stunning wildlife photographs and make new friends. Back from the Brink offers endless possibilities for both people and nature. It’s very exciting.” 

Julia Hanmer, Joint CEO of Bat Conservation Trust said: “The scale of delivery and the degree of collaboration makes Back from the Brink an exciting project which offers real hope of creating a world where wildlife and people thrive together. Thank you to National Lottery for sharing our vision.”

David Hodd, Programme Manager for Back from the Brink, said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and is a game changing approach to nature conservation that will have a lasting legacy.  It will inspire new working partnerships, and help people to adopt new ways of working. 

"England’s species provide us with a rich source of enjoyment inspiration and creativity. Our collective endeavour to bring our threatened species back from the brink will provide many people with just that. We are living in the last chance saloon for many of these species, but each and every one of them plays a crucial role within our fragile eco-system. We are all ultimately dependent on them all – they are like the canaries in the mine and our understanding of them is the result of enormous human endeavour.”