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Environment Minister: Protecting our peatland is essential

Date: 15 Feb 2017

The IUCN UK Peatland Programme welcomes news today that the UK Government remains committed to providing £4m funding to help protect and restore England’s peatlands.

The nation’s peatlands provide society with many services and are particularly important as carbon stores, helping to mitigate against anthropogenic climate change.

In the past, the value provided us by peatlands has been overlooked and misunderstood, leading to widespread damage and impairing their ability to function properly, leading to costly problems for society to fix. This fund is helping to readdress this balance, supporting the work carried out by the various peatland partnerships across the country, who are working to restore peatlands from Exmoor up to the North Pennines.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey made the announcement today at the appropriate location of Chat Moss, a highly damaged raised bog that is now being restored by Lancashire Wildlife Trust with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work here will prevent the loss of carbon dioxide, which is emitted by damaged bogs, and return habitat for wildlife. It goes to prove that it is not too late to restore these habitats back to a functioning state – the skills exist here in England.

This fund is helping to restore a number of England’s peatlands – of which 80% are estimated to be damaged – so that they once again store carbon, mitigate against flooding and provide clean drinking water and habitat for rare wildlife. The provision of these multiple services for society will, in the long term, make it a wise investment and prevent costs from damaged peatlands from escalating.

Defra Press Release

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey today confirmed the government’s commitment to restoring England’s peatlands visiting Salford’s Chat Moss.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has received £993,000 investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore “Salford’s rainforest” and provide habitats for bog mosses which in turn support other species like carnivorous plants, bog bush cricket, brown hare, and vulnerable bird species like the curlew and short eared owl. 

The UK is one of the first countries in the world to commit to protecting, restoring and sustainably managing peatland and is investing £4m to protect the nation’s peatlands.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

“Protecting our peatlands is essential not only to benefit the local countryside but also tackling greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality and supporting wildlife.

“We want to be the first generation to leave our natural environment in a better state than we found it. Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s exciting work here in Salford is seeing birds and wildlife returning to the area and is an important part of realising that vision.”

Dr Chris Miller of Lancashire Wildlife Trust said: “Our peatlands are amazing places for wildlife, as places to visit, and for the carbon they store.  Sadly they have been mistreated, and have become badly damaged.  But here at Chat Moss we (Lancashire Wildlife Trust) are showing that we can turn the clocks back, and re-create a thriving living landscape bursting with life.  With this new funding for peatland we will be able to do more of this valuable work.”

"Our project benefits wildlife and local people, and we need to remember that the funding comes directly from people who play the National Lottery. All in all it's a real community project from funding, to volunteering to people coming along to visit the reserve."

Much of England’s peatland has been damaged historically by drainage for agriculture and forestry – its restoration not only supports wildlife, it also forms natural carbon sinks that lock away billions of tonnes of carbon, offsetting the effects of greenhouse gasses.

Peatlands represent the UK’s most important terrestrial store of carbon, locking away at least 3.2 billion tonnes of CO2 and 70% of all our drinking water is derived from upland catchments dominated by peat. 

Government funding is available for projects that restore upland and lowland peatlands to their natural state, increasing their capacity to prevent carbon entering the atmosphere, reduce flood risk by slowing the flow of rain water and create habitats for vulnerable wildlife.

The funding is part of Defra’s £100m of capital funding for projects that support the natural environment over the next five years.