Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Merlin Magic project has been awarded a grant from the Government’s £40 million second round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, a multi-million pound boost for green jobs and nature recovery. The project will cover the Yorkshire Dales National Park, North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and North York Moors National Park and builds on GWCT volunteers monitor breeding merlin in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2020.

Ninety nature projects across England have been awarded grants from £68,100 to £1,950,000 to create and retain over 1,000 green jobs, backed by the Government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

Work will be carried out on over 600 sites from North Northumberland to the tip of Cornwall, and combined with the first round, almost a million trees will be planted, contributing towards the Government’s commitment to treble tree planting rates across England by the end of this Parliament.

The Merlin Magic project is focusing on the iconic merlin, a distinctive small falcon breeding on England’s moorlands and red-listed as birds of conservation concern. Gamekeepers managing moors proudly host them and raptor workers enthusiastically search for them, but there can be disagreement over their status and perceived causes of decline.

GWCT will help reconcile opinions through promoting cooperative working, whereby gamekeepers under licence will help find nests for raptor workers, who then validate nests and ring and tag chicks. By measuring nesting vegetation, habitat quality and avian prey, this evidence-based approach will guide dialogue amongst grouse practitioners and upland ecologists and provide a better understanding of landscape-scale improvements in priority bog and heath moorland management to benefit merlin, other ground-nesting birds, habitat condition and wildfire control. This vital funding will also help to promote public awareness of moorland conservation issues, inform conservation strategies and lay foundations for further grouse-raptor reconciliation projects.

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Head of Upland Research David Baines said:

“Merlin are an often-overlooked part of the moorland bird community. This project will bring together different groups of people with a shared passion for the uplands, but with differing perspectives on how to drive their recovery. A better understanding of how merlin use upland habitats and what pressures are affecting their numbers will provide a common focus for future management.”

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change. Connecting people with nature is another priority theme: by increasing access to nature and green spaces, projects will support both physical and mental wellbeing. The Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund was developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.

A full list of awards is available to view at:

www.heritagefund.org.uk/publications/green-recovery-challenge-fund-second-round-decisions-july-2021

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