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Lottery cash aids efforts to save the red squirrel

Apr 11, 2006, 11:03 am

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UK National Lottery

There are few of them left to enjoy it, but Britain's red squirrels have been awarded a £626,000 (US$1.09 million) Lottery grant — supporting a project designed to save the native creatures from destruction.

Two of the 16 red squirrel reserves — set up as part of a £1.1 million (US$1.92 million) scheme to reverse the dominance of the imported American grey squirrel — are in North Yorkshire.

Some of the Lottery money will be used by the Save Our Squirrels project at Widdale, west of Hawes, and in the Garsdale and Mallerstang area between Upper Wensleydale and Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen.

The project is being co-ordinated by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust on behalf of Red Alert North England, a partnership of environmental and wildlife organizations, to raise awareness of the plight of red squirrels.

The grant will pay for a team of red squirrel officers who will be deployed across northern England to undertake conservation work and to educate the public by creating opportunities to see the squirrel in its natural woodland habitat.

Developing public interest in red squirrels is thought to be vital for the species' future survival. Despite the highest level of protection under UK law through the Wildlife and Countryside Act they have vanished from many parts of the country.

The introduction of the American grey squirrel, together with a disease known as squirrel pox that only affects red squirrels, has spelled disaster for the species.

Their only hope now depends on effective conservation measures in remaining strongholds, which are mostly in the North.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust chief executive Mike Pratt said, "This is great news for all concerned with the conservation of this iconic animal from England's woodlands — the real Squirrel Nutkin.

"We will work with our partner wildlife trusts in Yorkshire, Lancashire, North Merseyside and Cumbria, with landowners and the public to implement conservation measures in the 16 designated red squirrel reserves and surrounding buffer zones.

"Thanks to this project many more people will get closer to this magical creature, possibly for the first time, through the trusts' People and Wildlife programs.

"We also believe the project will fuel nature tourism opportunities in the North, helping rural communities to thrive."
The Forestry Commission, a key Red Alert partner, will help to manage red squirrel reserves, providing grants for conservation and creating buffer zones.

Forestry Minister Jim Knight said, "Red squirrels are a cherished but threatened part of our biodiversity in England.
"I'm very pleased to learn that this significant new funding has been secured by this partnership project."

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