Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Save Our Magnificent Meadows

Posted by Nicola Hutchinson, Head of Conservation Programmes, England and Wales.

If you happen to see fireworks around the Plantlife HQ it isn’t just because of we like to celebrate the Chinese New Year – it’s because the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has this past week agreed to fund a grassland programme of unrivalled scale.  It is the first time that the HLF's UK committee has considered a natural heritage bid - usually environment projects are decided on by HLF at regional level - so this is totally new territory for the HLF, and for Plantlife, and a resounding achievement for the hard work over several years that goes into submitting a bid of this ambition.

Save Our Magnificent Meadows is a £3million programme of meadow and other grassland conservation, with community and people engagement at its heart, to be delivered across the UK.  It is headed up by Plantlife, with the following partners: Ulster Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, National Trust in Wales, Cotswolds Conservation Board, Somerset Wildlife Trust, RSPB in Wiltshire, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and the Medway Valley Countryside Partnership (Kent CC). The project partners are a mighty bunch who have worked long and hard to work out the best approach to the most important grassland needs in their areas, and we are all thrilled.  For the conservation of grassland plants and other wildlife this is incredible news. It is an amazing opportunity for our grassland wildlife, so often the 'Cinderellas of the conservation world' - talked about in terms of extreme loss and decline but often overlooked in the wake of higher profile habitats such as woodlands and wetlands. This time they have a chance to go to the Ball!

The key to Save our Magnificent Meadows is that it isn't simply a series of independent local projects, rather there is a strong nationwide programme of activities to link local activities and to take the message as wide as possible.  The project has received £2.1million from the HLF and will begin in Spring 2014 for three years.  We will work with landowners to restore and create wildlife-rich grasslands; we will directly safeguard over 3000 ha of our most vulnerable grassland habitats and influence the management of a further 3000 ha. Crucially, the project will foster greater understanding of the values of meadows and grasslands by landowners, communities and wider society with over 550,000 people expected to participate.

I've spent the past few days spreading the news and thanking the many people who have helped bring this incredible opportunity to life.  My hope is that one day the sights and sounds of wildlife-rich meadows and grasslands will again be a familiar summer experience for the many and not just the few as it sadly is today.

We’ll keep you updated of events as they happen via this blog, our website, Facebook and Twitter.

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