CONSERVATION projects in Somerset are set to benefit from a share of £25m which aims to restore thousands of hectares of critical habitats for wildlife.

A total of 20 projects, including ‘Bogs and Bitterns: Somerset wetland restoration’, headed up by Somerset Wildlife Trust, will benefit from the Species Survival Fund, with the ambition to restore more than 3,300 hectares of habitats for wildlife, such as the Atlantic rainforest, grasslands, woodlands, and wetlands – a total area equivalent to the size of York.

On the Somerset Levels, 50 hectares of wetland habitat will be restored and expanded to create good quality ‘stepping stone’ sites and improve species abundance across Somerset.

Simon Clarke, head of nature recovery at Somerset Wildlife Trust, said: “The natural environment is at a critical crossroads.

“We must be able to strengthen the county’s nature recovery network by focusing on these key, and vulnerable ‘stepping stone’ sites and provide a range of resilient habitats that can continue to support a range of species and that can deliver the high functioning ecosystems that we know that will enable us to tackle climate change.

“We’re delighted to have been awarded these funds and are looking forward to engaging with the local communities to explore ways that they can get involved."

Grants of up to £3million have been awarded to projects run by wildlife charities, farmers, and community groups to accelerate nature recovery and support precious species. The Fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund on behalf of Defra.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, who is also the MP for Taunton Deane, said:“The funding awarded as part of our flagship Species Survival Fund will enable local authorities, landowners, farmers, and our protected landscapes organisations to restore nature at scale and provide valuable green jobs in the process.

“Only by creating bigger and better habitats for wildlife will we be able to halt the alarming decline in species loss. This fund will be a key plank in achieving our legally binding targets to halt species loss and protect 30 per cent5 of land for nature by 2030.”

Eilish McGuinness, chief executive at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Defra again to distribute funding for these projects. This partnership will further our vision for heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future.”