heath restoration praised

Minister praises heath restoration initiative

Nature conservation minister Ben Bradshaw last week praised a landmark conservation project responsible for restoring 1,000ha of rare Dorset heathland across common, military and private land. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ Dorset Heathland Project was run by the RSPB with several partners, including English Nature, the National Trust, the Ministry of Defence, local authorities and landowners. Ancient British heathland has almost halved in size over the past 50 years through land improvement and tree planting. RSPB chief executive Graham Wynne has stressed that this project must be only the start of restoration work. Heathland plants such as Erica and Ulex, and rare wildlife such as spring sandpipers and nightjars, have already started to return just three months after the MOD felled trees to open up landscape at its training grounds in Lulworth. Workers had to remove vast amounts of invasive trees and shrubs, such as Pinus and Rhododendron ponticum, which thrive in the poor-quality, acidic soils and quickly take over the landscape. The project has aided government progress towards its Public Service Agreement target of 95 per cent heathland sites of specific scientific interest being in favourable ecological condition by 2010. “Sustainable development and protection of our countryside is at the heart of DEFRA’s business,” said Bradshaw.

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