IMPORTANT wildlife sites in Calder- dale have been transformed by a major conservation project.
Yorkshire Water owns 11,500 hectares of Sites of Special Scientific Interest across the region, the majority of which were in decline in 2003.
But the company, working with Natural England, has now restored 99 per cent of the land to recovery condition – and its tenants have played a vital role by adapting their farming methods.
Rachel Hallos, of Beeston Hall Farm, Ripponden, has moved from dairy to beef farming, which means her cattle can graze on Soyland Moor – controlling grass growth and helping the heather and peat to recover.
“When you’re dairy farming you need them on lush grassland to create milk.
“Also, you need the cows close to home so you can milk them twice a day. With beef cattle you can put them on the moor.
“Thanks to the cattle, the heather’s now on the increase, and other seeds, dormant for probably 20 years or more, are coming through.
“We’ve also cut out a number of shallow ponds and ditches with gentle banks, all of which is helping wildlife to thrive.”
Yorkshire’s SSSIs include much of the county’s heather moorland, as well as wildflower meadows, streams and wetlands.
They provide vital habitats for wildlife and play an important part in carbon storage, flood prevention and water quality.
The Government set a target for all SSSIs to be in recovering or favourable condition by 2010.
Emma Fawcett, Natural England advisor, has been working with Yorkshire Water and Beeston Hall Farm to help them achieve it.
“Having this big partnership means we make much more of a difference than just doing it on our own,” she said.
Mike Pearson, of Yorkshire Water, said: “The company’s achievement has been immense and we could not have done it without strong support from Natural England, our tenants and many other stakeholders who have worked with us.
“The work we have done will assist with our raw water quality as well as improving the biodiversity of the moorlands in our ownership.”