National Trust to create and restore 'priority' wildlife habitats on its land

The National Trust has pledged to "reverse the decline in wildlife" on its own land and create 25,000 hectares of new habitats by 2025.

Image: National Trust
Image: National Trust

The National Trust (NT) aims to create and restore 'priority' wildlife habitats on 10% of its land including habitats described as threatened by the Government, such as chalk grassland and arable field margins.

It aims to turn at least 50% of farmland over to ‘nature friendly’ habitats by 2025. These include protected hedgerows, field margins, ponds and woodland. The trust has pledged to continue to work with its 1,500 farm tenants on sustainable farming.

Director of land, landscape and nature Peter Nixon said: "Our charity was founded to protect our natural heritage and we believe we should be playing an active role in reviving it – by doing what we can on our own land.

"Nature has been squeezed out to the margins for far too long. We want to help bring it back to the heart of our countryside. Despite the battering it’s taken over many decades, nature has an incredible ability to rejuvenate and revive if given the conditions to thrive."

Nixon said that the NT wanted to see birds such as the cuckoo, lapwing and curlew they’ve virtually disappeared from the countryside.

"We want to see them return to the fields, woods and meadows again, along with other wildlife which was once common and is now rare."

The trust has pledged to implement the 'better, bigger, more and joined-up' approach to nature conservation called for in a Government-commissioned review by Sir John Lawton.

Planting more hedgerows, which act as ‘wildlife corridors’ for birds and bats, establishing more lowland meadows and creating wetlands where appropriate could all help establish new habitats and will be considered in partnership with tenant farmers and other stakeholders.

Nixon added: "The future of farming and the environment are inextricably linked – they are reliant on the other to succeed. So, it’s not a case of supporting one, at the expense of the other. We want both to thrive.

'We need the support of our farmers and want to support them in their businesses and combine our skills, expertise and passion to deliver a healthier, more beautiful environment. That’s why we will work with them and explore how we make improvements together.'

Marian Spain, chief executive of charity Plantlife, called the plans a "bold commitment". 

George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers' Association, added:  'Farm tenants will be heartened by the National Trust's clearly expressed position that good environmental management in the countryside cannot be divorced from the achievement of productive and sustainable farming.' 

Our new commitments could play an important role in helping deliver the Government's own ambitions to improve the natural environment.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: 'I’m really pleased nature will be prioritised across the trust’s farmland, supporting even more of our plants and wildlife and helping deliver our target to create 200,000 hectares of priority habitat by 2020.'


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