Plan to bring back 'lost' wetlands

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Good news for the bittern and the crane, for water voles and eels, for dragonflies and butterflies, and for anyone who loves wildlife. Marshes, reedbeds, fenlands, peat bogs, meres and ponds across the country are to be restored and recreated in a massive exercise to bring back England's lost wetlands.

Almost 2,000 hectares of wetland habitat will be returned to pristine state over two years as a result of £4m of funding to be announced today by the Government's wildlife agency, Natural England.

The careful process of re-wetting the land will help a multitude of wildlife, including declining bird species such as snipe and redshank.

Over the past millennium, England has lost 90 per cent of its wetlands. Last year, with other conservation bodies, Natural England began a restoration exercise named Wetland Vision, which has allocated £6m to projects from Morecambe Bay to the East Anglian fens.

These new and restored habitats are expected to provide homes for iconic marsh birds such as the bittern and the crane, both very rare, and for insects such as the white-faced darter dragonfly and large heath butterfly, as well as for rare plant communities. The RSPB director of conservation, Mark Avery, said: "We have mucked up our wetlands thoroughly, so anything we can do to repair them is really worth while."

Over the next two years, work will focus on the East Anglian fens, the Humberhead levels, the Midlands meres and mosses, the Morecambe Bay wetlands, the Somerset levels and moors and the River Till floodplain in Northumberland.