The Welsh Government, in partnership with Natural Resources Wales, has opened a new round of grant funding for large-scale capital projects to maintain and improve Natura 2000 sites.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a spotlight on the value of nature and the importance of access to our natural environment to our health and well-being.
Natura 2000 sites were set up in 2011 with the aim of ensuring the long-term survival of valuable and threatened species and habitats across Europe. They form part of the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said:
“Protecting and promoting Wales’ natural resources is a key element of our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, many communities have gained an increased appreciation for our natural environment – not just the part it plays in wellbeing and recreation, but also in underpinning key rural economies.
“And as I have noted before, there are direct links between our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and our recovery from the climate emergency – both require us to rethink much of how we operate in our day-to-day lives, and measures taken to respond to one will often complement our response to the other.
“This funding will provide focused support to help save nature in crisis, and improve ecosystem resilience helping us respond to the climate emergency.
“Funding our response to the climate emergency remains one of our top priorities, and we will keep funding under review as we continue to understand the scale of the remedial work needed.”
As well as improving Wales’ natural environment, the grant funding will also deliver further benefits to communities and landscapes surrounding Natural 2000 sites – as well as boost the resilience of ecosystems to climate impacts..
Organisations and individuals who can demonstrate action to improve Natura 2000 sites by March 2021 are encouraged to apply. The grant window will be open for five weeks.
The scheme is just one part of the wider programme of significant investment into natural resources led by Welsh Government, through a range of different schemes – including Enabling Natural Resources and Well-being (ENRaW); Glastir; Sustainable Management and Green Infrastructure projects.
Ruth Jenkins, Head of Natural Resource Planning at NRW said:
“Natura 2000 sites are amongst some of the most precious sites in Wales and are important nationally and internationally. However, they are also vulnerable to pressures such as climate change, invasive species, land use change and pollution.
“This investment will help maintain and improve these places allowing their wildlife to flourish and adapt to environmental changes. Together these sites form a vital network for nature from where habitats and species can expand their range, be that on land, inland waters and the sea.”