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Upper Wharfedale Trees, rivers and moorland

C1 – Priority habitats

How are we doing on this objective

Support farmers and landowners to restore and manage landscape-scale mosaics of priority habitats so that:

a) all the blanket bog in nationally and internationally important wildlife sites is ‘recovering’, and 50% of the other land in such sites has reached ‘favourable’ condition by 2024.  ‘Recovering’ – means the site is being managed in a way that should – over time – lead to it reaching ‘Favourable’ condition. ‘Favourable’ – means the habitats and features are in a healthy state and being managed appropriately.

b) 30% of the priority habitats outside nationally-designated wildlife sites are in good condition by 2024; ‘Priority habitats’ – listed in the Yorkshire Dales Biodiversity Action Plan (2011). ‘Good condition’ – means the habitat has been assessed using either FEP or BEHTA Survey methodology and has ‘passed’ every criteria.

c) at least one landscape-scale ‘nature recovery area’ has been created by 2021.


Progress: (a) There has been a slight decline in the condition of nationally and internationally important wildlife sites (SSSIs). The area in favourable condition is now 29% (down from 30% the previous year).

(b) Most recent figure is 22% (2016). Updated figures will not be available until the 2020 Trends and Status Report is completed (March 2021).

(c) Led by the North Pennines AONB partnership, a full Stage 2 bid was submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in March for the £8.5m Tees-Swale: naturally connected project. Additional match funding secured from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation (£300k) and Richmondshire District Council (£50k).

Press Releases & related articles:

7 September 2020 – ‘Rewilding’

23 July 2020 – National Lottery funds Tees Swale Project


Rationale: The 57,000 ha of nationally and internationally designated wildlife sites form the heart of the most coherent network of semi-natural habitats left in England.  Only 30% are currently in favourable condition, although almost all are being actively managed or restored.  The biggest challenge relates to the 24,000 ha of internationally-designated blanket bog, which – once degraded – takes many years to reach favourable condition again (see objective D3).  There are over 36,000 ha of nationally-important habitats outside of designated sites.  Only 22% of these are in good condition.  The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan includes a commitment to develop a ‘Nature Recovery Network’ to link existing protected sites, and creating up to 25 new ‘nature recovery areas’.

Lead partners:   a) and b) Natural England; c) Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

Supporting partners:  Yorkshire Peat Partnership; Environment Agency; Forestry Commission; Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust; National Trust;

Further information:    YDNPA – Habitats; Tees-Swale: Naturally Connected

Cost over 5 years:  £2,500,000 [part c) only]

Funding shortfall:  £2,500,000 [part c) only]

Related objectives:   C2; D3; D5; D6; D7

Ecosystem services:  Biodiversity; Food provision; Pollination; Climate regulation; Water Flow; Soil quality; Regulating pests; Sense of place and inspiration; Recreation; Genetic diversity; Water quality; Soil erosion

Trade-offs:  Restoring and managing priority habitats to achieve favourable condition will usually restrict the level of production that might otherwise be achieved from farming. e.g.  Counter-intuitively, this can often improve the ‘profitability’ of the farming because, a) the farmer is rewarded through agri-environment scheme payments; b) reducing the intensity of production leads to cuts in costs that are greater than the cuts in income.

Baseline: a) 20,459 ha (95%) of blanket bog is ‘favourable’ or ‘unfavourable recovering at March 2018. 14,973 ha (42%) of other habitats in ‘favourable condition’ at March 2018. b) 22% in good condition (2016 Trends and Status Report). c) No ‘nature recovery areas’.


‘State of the Park’ indicator – YES