It is fantastic to see that Natural England is considering protecting a list of nationally important wildlife sites. Protected wildlife sites are a national asset, covering beautiful flower rich meadows, seabird colonies and expansive moorlands. All these important sites warrant sympathetic management and protection from inappropriate developments. Currently these protected sites cover only 8% of England’s land area – which is far below the 17% we need to secure to meet our international obligations. Conserving and creating new and bigger wildlife sites is crucial to restore England’s natural environment and support healthy prosperous communities.

We are particularly pleased to see the Dearne Valley wetland’s make the list of sites being considered for protection. The Dearne Valley used to sit at the heart of the Yorkshire coal mining industry. Where the mines used to be a group of dedicated partners and local enthusiast have created and restored a chain of wetland sites. The valley now hosts a wealth of wildlife from water voles to booming bittern, providing the local communities with beautiful places to enjoy. The conservation work has help to shift outdated perceptions of the area as predominantly a post-industrial landscape and helped boost the visitor economy. The Dearne Valley truly embodies the principles of landscape scale conservation creating ‘more, bigger, better and joined’ wildlife sites for people and nature.

The vision to create a ‘green heart’ in easy reach of 2 million people received funding as one of only twelve Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). One of the aims of the Dearne Valley NIA was to create wildlife sites that would meet the rigorous scientific criteria for designation. Therefore, to see the valley make Natural England’s list is a great testament to the hard work of the local councils, landowners, Natural England, nature conservation organisations and local communities.

We have no doubt the site meets the high standards, we hope Natural England makes the decision to protect the Dearne valley and all the other wildlife sites to make their list, ensuring they are protected for future generations to enjoy.