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Ecology projects

7. Wildlife sites project

Local wildlife sites are important wildlife areas. They include chalk and limestone grasslands, neutral hay meadows and pastures, as well as wetland, heathland and ancient woodland.

Unlike Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), owning a Local Wildlife Site (LWS) does not confer any legal or statutory obligations on the landowner. The conservation relies on the voluntary co-operation of landowners and managers. Sites are also recognised within the local planning system.

In Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes 45% of ancient woodland and at least 35% of chalk grassland has been lost since the 1930's. In many instances, wildlife has been lost, as old meadows have been reseeded, marshes drained and ancient woods abandoned or replanted with conifers. Protection of Local Wildlife Sites will help to maintain our valuable wildlife heritage.

There are 392 sites identified in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, most are managed sympathetically by their owners. The Wildlife Sites Project aims to encourage the continuation of this trend, so the wildlife is retained and enhanced for the future.

How the system works

A list is made of potential Local Wildlife Sites. Subject to landowner/tenant permission for access, sites are surveyed to record their flora and fauna. This data is used to assess each site's wildlife value in a county context, considering all plants and animals. Sites are then judged against criteria and, after consultation with landowners, a list and maps of Local Wildlife Sites will be drawn up. Management advice and support for grant aid applications will be given on sites passing the criteria.

What does this mean for landowners?

Local Wildlife Sites are a priority target for agri-environment grants, such as DEFRA's Environmental Stewardship Scheme. This aims for environmental benefits and to make conservation part of normal farming practice. If you own or manage a Local Wildlife Site, maintaining the wildlife importance of the site relies on your co-operation, with possible financial support from agri-environment schemes. There is no control over agricultural or forestry operations, and no new rights of access are created.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017

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