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£15million for landowners who want to improve biodiversity

Snowdonia Donkeys

Minister for Climate Change Julie James has announced nearly £15million for landowners and managers who want to improve biodiversity to help Wales fight the climate and nature emergencies.

The Nature Networks Programme, which opens to applicants today, will help all types of Wales’ most precious habitats flourish under better management – from saltmarshes and estuaries to forests and grasslands – whilst helping to connect people to nature to improve wellbeing

These sites are home to the iconic – such as otter, bottlenose dolphin and grey seal, alongside the obscure – such as the petalwort plant and whorl snails. They are also home to a wide range of birds, including the critically endangered Atlantic puffin.

Ffarm Moelyci on the outskirts of Snowdonia National Park is one such project who has previously benefitted from Welsh Government funding, and who will be seeking to apply again. The farm uses donkeys- some of which have been rescued from neglectful beginnings- to graze important grassland to control invasive bracken on their land.

Ruth Stronge and her work at the Snowdonia Donkeys at the farm to graze important grassland helping to control invasive bracken on their land and boost nature and wildlife.

Project leader Ruth Stronge says that this has made space for rare orchids and other plantlife, which in turn has boosted insect life and encouraged birds to the area.

Ffarm Moelyci enlists the help of local volunteers to look after the donkeys, who Ruth says have helped with the mental health of all involved:

“The donkeys are happy, our volunteers and visitors are happy, our environment is thriving – it’s win-win-win!

“We take great care at Ffarm Moelyci to manage the land as best we can, especially as the farm is an important site that connects historic pasture land to our prized Snowdonia National Park.

“The donkeys have converted a field covered in gorse scrub into an oasis of orchids and butterflies which can spread to nearby farms too. For the cherry on the cake, we now have a heart-stopping beautiful space for our community, birds and donkeys to share and enjoy.”

Good land management that uses the correct grazing and mixed species planting methods means wildlife thrives, harmful pollution is reduced and the maximum amount of carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere. In worst case scenarios, bad land management accelerates the nature emergency as wildlife struggles to find food and shelter, whilst further exacerbating the climate emergency as lands release more carbon than they are able to store.

What’s more, barren and non-diverse lands reduces natures ability to provide us with good quality drinking water and clean air to breathe.

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said:

“Bad land management can mean disastrous consequences not only for our ecology, but for the health of the people of Wales. But look what good land management can achieve – with a bit of help our plants, wildlife and communities can thrive!

“Thank-you Ruth, and all those at Ffarm Moelyci – including the donkeys- for your inspirational work. I’d like to encourage all landowners and managers to please apply for this funding pot through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, so you can help leave behind a Wales that is bountiful in biodiversity to our future generations.”

Ruth Jenkins, Head of Natural Resource Management Policy at Natural Resources Wales said:

“Nature benefits everyone. It’s our life support system, which is why its restoration and resilience must be a shared endeavour across all parts of society.

“The Nature Networks Programme aims to capitalise on the flourishing connections we have all seen between people and the planet during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the urgent need to tackle the climate emergency. NRW is delighted to join forces with others to support this important funding and play our part in building the momentum needed to regenerate the natural world.

“While it is important that we focus on places with high nature conservation value, nature’s recovery and resilience requires more and better connections between these places, whatever the scale.  We encourage land managers across the nation to seize this opportunity and work together and with others to help deliver a wide portfolio of ambitious projects that will benefit people and wildlife for generations to come.”