A project that aims to restore natural habitats, enhance carbon sequestration and improve water quality in the Esk Valley is one of 27 schemes in England to benefit from a pioneering new grant scheme.

The North York Moors National Park Authority has been awarded £100,000 from the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund to boost biodiversity in the Esk Valley catchment area while simultaneously attracting private investment.

The Fund has been established to support the development of nature-based projects until the point they become sustainable through financial return. This could be through the sale of carbon and biodiversity units (giving companies the opportunity to compensate for their emissions through habitat improvements), natural flood management benefits or through reduced water treatment costs. The National Park Authority will now work closely with farmers and land-owners in the region, in particular the Esk Valley Farmers Group, to design and model a range of projects such as planting new woodlands and establishing riverside meadows, which will help the land store or slow water. This in turn reduces the risk of flooding and creates favourable conditions for threatened local species including salmon, sea trout and the fresh water pearl mussel.

Dr Briony Fox, Director of Conservation at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:

“This pilot project aims to understand how to restore habitats across a significant area of the North York Moors, including one of its most beautiful valleys, in a way that benefits both nature and land managers.

“We look forward to working alongside our partners Palladium to help the Esk Valley Farmers Group create a sustainable method of generating income from activities that benefit wildlife and help tackle climate change.”

Tom Gegg, Manager of Nature Based Solutions at Palladium said:

“The pilot project in North York Moors is a critical step towards helping to restore nature in the UK. We look forward to working alongside our partners North York Moors National Park Authority to design a model that can leverage much needed private finance for nature restoration in the Esk Valley catchment.”

Speaking after the announcement of the first round of funding, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

“To tackle the environmental challenges we face from climate change and biodiversity loss, it is crucial that domestic natural environment projects are able to attract private investment alongside support from the public sector.

“Unleashing innovation and growing new sources of finance, such as through the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund, are fundamental for delivering nature recovery and developing nature-based solutions to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

It is hoped the project, which began this month, will provide a model for sustainable habitat regeneration that can be both replicated and scaled up across the UK National Park network and ultimately for wider landscape restoration.

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