AN ambitious plan to raise cash which will help save the Dales has just been announced by the National Trust.

The organisation hopes to raise £250,000 from donations to create a more ‘self-sustaining’ landscape’, which will also go some way to saving six threatened species.

Trust chiefs say that the landscape, so beloved of visitors, “may be nature, but it’s not natural”.

Martin Davies, National Trust Yorkshire Dales general manager, explained: “The landscape has been hugely altered by us humans. Woodland clearance and intensive livestock grazing over many centuries has left the land bare and uniform, whilst the river systems and peatlands need help now to limit flooding and erosion. Without doubt, it is beautiful, but it could be so much better.

“Cash raised from the appeal will be focused around three key areas to support the future survival of six species and their habitat in the Dales - Fountains and Darnbrook Fells, Horse Head Moor and the wider Upper Wharfedale estate. National Trust will be working together with its hill farming tenants, who themselves have for many years now been working to change the way they manage the landscape.”

Among the species which the Trust says need help are birds including the twite, ring ouzel and black grouse, the northern brown argus butterfly, and the extremely endangered red squirrel. Plants such as juniper also require help desperately, say Trust officials.

The work will involve establishing major areas of native trees and shrubs, repairing blanket bogs, restoring more natural drainage systems to the rivers and hillsides and working with tenant farmers to look into and support different farming models. The Trust points out that grazing is a natural process and it wants to explore ways in which farmers can refine their livestock management to give nature more of a free hand, adopting a more ‘naturalistic’ grazing approach at the same time as improving their businesses.

Mr Davies added: “This is a great opportunity to retain the best of the area and improve it by creating a more natural habitat for birds and animals. Nature just needs a bit of help to get things going.”

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