Farmers to be given cash to rewild land under government plans to restore habitats

Farmers in our region are set to be given cash to re-wild their land under government plans for large-scale nature recovery projects.

The Landscape Recovery scheme aims to provide habitats for wildlife, conserve species and restore the health of rivers and streams. 

The government aims to restore up 300,000 hectares of wildlife habitat by 2042.

North Yorkshire Farmer Fraser Hugill has already started. He gets a grant by giving part of his farm to the birds, who he also feeds.

He told ITV News Tyne Tees: "Farming for the environment fits with my ethos. I'm not alone. A lot of us want to do that. It makes you feel good what you see out here, seeing flocks of birds."

However, there are concerns turning established farmland into habitats like woodland could cause issues in our food production.

Kate Adams from the National Farmer's Union said: "If we prioritise environmental protection over food production then this will result in our self sufficiency percentage going down.

"This will then increase our reliance on importing food from other parts of the world that may not be farmed to the same high standards that we have here.

"This obviously isn't good for climate change either because we then need to think about the carbon footprint of importing these foods."

Fraser is also worried about striking the right balance. He said, "If I'm growing this, I want to make sure we're not seeing tropical rainforests being cut down to replace it.

"We need to do something about climate change. We need to address some of the issues around biodiversity, I don't disagree with that. But it needs to be in a joined up way that we're not doing it at a cost."

Environment Secretary George Eustice said that a “radical rewilding experiment” at the Knepp Estate in Sussex showed that “sometimes if you let go of the reins and allow nature to re-establish itself, and have a nature-led recovery of habitats, you can see some quite significant changes in a relatively short time”.

The government said their plans would help halt the decline in species, restore up to 300,000 hectares of habitat by 2042 and generate carbon savings of six million tonnes a year by the mid-2030s.