RSPB scoops major European conservation award

Volunteers at Dove Stones RSPB reserve in the Peak District. Photo: Ben Hall (www.rspb-images.com).
Volunteers at Dove Stones RSPB reserve in the Peak District. Photo: Ben Hall (www.rspb-images.com).
The RSPB has been awarded the 2016 Natura 2000 Nature Conservation Award for an ambitious habitat restoration project at Dove Stone in Derbyshire's Peak District. 

The project – a collaboration between the conservation charity and United Utilities – is entitled ‘Demonstrating Success in Blanket Bog Restoration’, and is aimed at restoring around 2,500 hectares of moorland back to natural blanket bog, an internationally scarce habitat, with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers. Britain has about 15 per cent (1.5m hectares) of the total global area of blanket blog, making Dove Stone one of the most important international locations for the habitat. The Natura 2000 network safeguards more than 27,000 important nature sites across Europe. The awards were established to recognise excellence in the management these sites.

The Peak District once boasted a number of thriving blanket bogs but a combination of industrial pollution, moorland fires and heavy grazing has left them seriously damaged. The restoration work will provide a number of benefits to the area, including helping to tackle climate change by locking up harmful carbon, acting as a natural filter to improve water quality and creating a habitat perfect for a variety of species such as Eurasian Curlew, Dunlin and Red Grouse. 

Since 2010, the RSPB and United Utilities have worked to restore blanket bog at Dove Stone in partnership with tenant farmers. The project involves planting vegetation on large areas of bare peatland, including planting over 70,000 individual handfuls of Sphagnum Moss and repairing eroded gullies.  

Dave O’Hara, the RSPB’s Site Manager at Dove Stone, said: “We are delighted to have won the Natura 2000 Conservation Award, but it’s important to say that it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our dedicated volunteers.

“Although this is a European award, this is a very local project, which has depended on the dedication of local people who have braved the elements week in, week out, to help start to return this part of the Peak District to its former glory.”

Ed Lawrance, Wildlife Warden at United Utilities, said: “It’s wonderful that the project has been recognised in this way. I think the judges were genuinely impressed at the success of the partnership and the commitment of all those involved. Not only that, we’ve demonstrated what can be achieved thanks to all our volunteers and this success could be used as a template and replicated around the world.”
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