Bringing England’s wildlife ‘back from the brink’ of extinction

Friday 4th December 2015

More than 100 species of England’s most threatened wildlife could be saved from extinction thanks to a new £4.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

HLF has approved the development stage and provided initial funding for ‘Back from the Brink’, a partnership project that brings together a range of conservation organisations to focus on protecting key threatened species – such as the grey long-eared bat, pasque flower, sand lizard, and Duke of Burgundy butterfly – from extinction.

The programme is being run by Natural England and the Partnership for Species Conservation – a coalition of seven of the UK’s leading wildlife charities (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). By working together at sites across the country, ‘Back from the Brink’ will save 20 species from extinction and help another 118 species that are under threat move to a more certain future.

Melanie Hughes, Natural England’s Director of Innovation and Reform, has welcomed today’s announcement, saying “It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to secure this funding to support the recovery of some of our most threatened species – something we believe will make a real difference to our environment and heritage.

“This is a great example of conservation organisations coming together; coordinating our efforts and combining our expertise to protect England’s most important wildlife.

“We know that people care about the fate of our endangered wildlife, and this programme focuses on inspiring local communities to enjoy and learn about the vulnerable species local to them and across England, and how they can take positive action to improve their habitats.”

Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Plantlife and Chair of the ‘Back from the Brink’ programme board, added “This is our chance to leave a lasting legacy for the next generation, by bringing like-minded bodies together for the first time ever. As well as transforming the fortunes of our most vulnerable wildlife, this project will give people the chance to get hands on with our most beautiful and fascinating plants and animals.”

Tom Tew, HLF Trustee, said “We think this programme can be a game-changer for wildlife – and it will get thousands of people involved in learning about and protecting some of England’s most endangered species. There is too often a lack of awareness here about the dramatic decline of our native species and if we don’t act soon it will be too late. 

“With our support, Natural England will bring together a wide range of NGO partners to work cohesively on a programme of initiatives right across the country, from coast to heath, from bumblebees to bats, to make a real difference to many of our endangered species.”

Once the development stage is completed in September 2016, the partnership hopes to secure the next phase of funding from HLF, which would mean the project would be up and running for four years until 2020.

The programme will combine three strands of work, including species conservation on the ground in over 30 places across England, working with landowners, communities, and volunteers, and inspiring people to enjoy and appreciate England’s threatened species. 

It is a key contributor to achieving the Government’s Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and forms part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme, which focuses on boosting populations of rare insects, birds, amphibians, plants, fungi, and mammals.