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Young people are custodians of countryside

Local people between the ages of 16-25 will be able to play an active role in governing Northumberland National Park and encouraging others to help look after it – today and for the future. Environment Minister Rory Stewart announced the setting up of the country's first National Park Youth Cabinet today during National Parks week.

National Parks are a corner stone of rural economies generating over £4 billion each year.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:

“With more than 90 million annual visitors to our National Parks they are an essential and very valuable part of rural life, bringing jobs and investment.

“It’s absolutely right young people – the future custodians of our natural world – have a say in how they are run.

“Important projects like this make that happen, giving teenagers and young adults first hand understanding of their true value – not just in monetary terms – but as part of our precious natural heritage.”

Minister Rory Stewart with representatives from the newly launched Northumberland National Park Youth Cabinet and members of the Youth Mosaic Project Credit: DEFRA
Minister Rory Stewart learns how to make pizza during his visit to Northumberland National Park Credit: DEFRA

Glen Sanderson, Chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “Our Youth Cabinet puts young people at the heart of what we do at the National Park as they are an integral part of the decision making process, and we listen and learn much from their views. National Parks are amongst Britain's most valued treasures, and we are ensuring that we do all we can to encourage young people to learn about, explore, and care for our National Parks so that future generations can continue to enjoy these national assets for years to come.”

Ian Riddle, age 25, from Bellingham, Northumberland, joined the Youth Cabinet to encourage other young people to get involved in the National Park, he said: “I think it’s really important for young people to have their say and have the opportunity to get involved with the Park. The Cabinet offers young people from all backgrounds and walks of life the chance to have our voices heard and influence how the National Park is run.”

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The BIG Butterfly Count 2015

Credit: Joan Rodger

Today sees the start of the 2015 Big Butterfly Count.

It is a simple way to keep track of butterfly numbers in the UK - and you can help.

All you need to do is spend 15 minutes observing butterflies and make a note of all those that you spot. It is that easy and can go a long way to help make sure butterflies continue to be a feature in our region.

How many can you spot? Credit: Big Butterfly Count

You can find all the details of how you can get involved here.

Red squirrels seen in fewer locations in the north

Red squirrels have been seen in fewer locations in the north. Credit: Bryan Watts

Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) has published the results of its annual red and grey squirrel survey, which once again confirms that red squirrels can still be found in seven counties in northern England.

However, following two consecutive years of red squirrel range expansion, 2015 has seen a decline in the number of sites where they were seen.

Red squirrels were found in 44% of the sites surveyed between March and May, down from 53% in 2014.

Grey squirrels were found in 47% of survey sites, up from 38% last year.

It is suspected that a mild winter and bumper wild food crops have given grey squirrels a temporary advantage over our native reds.

“There is no cause for alarm here as fluctuations in squirrel populations linked to environmental factors are entirely natural and beyond our
control. We hope 2016 will see a return to positive trends."

– Nick Mason, Red Squirrels Northern England

MPs urge National Park to approve mine plans

The mine would be built south of Whitby Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Three MPs have published a joint letter in support of plans to create a potash mine near Whitby in North Yorkshire, describing it as a 'once in a lifetime opportunity'.

Fellow Conservatives Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) and Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) have joined the Labour MP Anna Turley (Redcar) in highlighting what they say are the benefits of the project.

The plan, put forward by mining company Sirius Minerals, was approved in April by Redcar and Cleveland councillors. It will go before members of the North York Moors Park Planning Authority on Tuesday 30th June.

The York Potash project, as it is known, would include a mine south of Whitby and a transportation system to take the material to a processing plant at Wilton on Teesside. It would cost £1.7bn and would be the UK's first new potash mine for forty years.

The mine would be situated on the edge of the national park. Opponents say it would blight the landscape and argue the area should be protected from development of this nature.

In their letter to park authority members, the MPs urge them to 'grasp the opportunity and approve the planing application for the benefit of all'.

The York Potash project brings with it the chance to secure a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of thousands of people in our area.

A positive decision will bring enormous social and economic benefits to the area by creating jobs, improving training and education opportunities for young people, providing community facilities and by generating more wealth in the economy.

– Robert Goodwill MP, Anna Turley MP, Kevin Hollinrake MP

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Baby otter born at Wearside nature reserve

A baby otter has been born at the Washington Wetland Centre on Wearside.

The Asian short-clawed otter cub has been named Little Squeak because of her high-pitched cries.

She was born on 22 May to Musa and Mimi.

Aviculture and captive animal manager Kristian Purchase said: “It’s still early days for her, she currently weighs 149 grams, has no teeth and won’t open her eyes until she reaches about 40 days old, so it will be a few weeks before Musa and Mimi bring her outside."

Asian short-clawed otters are a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Dinosaur find in Whitby is UK's oldest

The dinosaur bone will go on display next week Credit: ITV

Experts say they have identified Britain's oldest sauropod dinosaur from a fossil bone discovered on the North Yorkshire coast. The backbone originates from a group of dinosaurs that includes the largest land animals to have ever walked on Earth.

The dinosaur bone from the Middle Jurassic Period at about 176 million years old was found on a beach at Whitby after it fell out of a cliff face. It represents the earliest skeletal record of this type of dinosaur from the United Kingdom and adds to existing evidence from Yorkshire dinosaur tracks that this part of the country was once Britain's very own "Jurassic World", say researchers at the University of Manchester.

Sauropods - often referred to as brontosaurs - include some of the largest plant-eating dinosaurs to have roamed the Earth and were a successful group for nearly 150 million years. They possessed distinctive long necks and tails, small heads, a large body and walked on all fours. Some species such as the Argentinosaurus grew up to 115ft long and possibly weighed as much as 80 tonnes. The fossil is said to be an extremely rare find, given the Middle Jurassic rocks of the world are only exposed in a few areas such as China and Argentina where similar-aged dinosaur fossils originate.

Professor Phil Manning and his team from the University of Manchester used X-ray tomography to study the fossil bone, which is now held in the collections at the Yorkshire Museum in York.

Prof Manning said: "Many scientists have worked on the amazing dinosaur tracks from the Middle Jurassic rocks of Yorkshire. "It was a splendid surprise to come face-to-face with a fossil vertebra from the Jurassic rocks of Yorkshire that was clearly from a sauropod dinosaur. This fossil offers the earliest 'body fossil' evidence for this important group of dinosaurs in the United Kingdom but it is impossible to define a new species based upon this single bone."

Until more bones are discovered the team have simply nicknamed Britain's oldest sauropod dinosaur Alan, after the finder of this prehistoric giant, Alan Gurr.

Sarah King, curator of natural science at the Yorkshire Museum, said: "We have some of the best examples of fossils from the area in our collections and we are delighted to be able to display the vertebra of Britain's oldest sauropod alongside them for the public to enjoy."

The vertebra will be on show at the Yorkshire Museum from June 8.

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