Rare wildlife saved in £17m deal to protect peat bogs

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In an unprecedented deal for wildlife, the Government is paying an American multinational company more than £17m for three big pieces of one of Britain's most unusual habitats – peat bog.

In an unprecedented deal for wildlife, the Government is paying an American multinational company more than £17m for three big pieces of one of Britain's most unusual habitats – peat bog.

The agreement, which yesterday delighted conservationists, is the culmination of a 10-year campaign to save three lonely landscapes – Wedholme Flow in Cumbria and Thorne and Hatfield Moors in South Yorkshire – which seem desolate but are wildlife-rich.

They are considered the best remaining examples in the country of lowland raised mires, and home to a mass of specialised species from wading birds to carnivorous plants. Among Thorne Moor's 3,000 insect species, 150 of them endangered, are two small beetles and a fly found nowhere else in Britain. But for years the bogs have been systematically stripped of their peat by garden products companies using planning concessions granted before their environmental worth was recognised.

In the past five years the company exploiting the sites has been Ohio-based Scotts, the world's largest garden products business, which uses the peat in its composts. Now, after more than a year's negotiation with the Government's wildlife advisers, English Nature, Scotts has agreed to surrender its peat extraction rights in return for £17.3m in compensation over the next three years.

Michael Meacher, the environment minister, said yesterday that the sum was well worth it. "These peatlands are an irreplaceable part of our heritage," he said.

English Nature has proposed all three sites as Special Areas of Conservation under the European Union's tough conservation law, the Habitats Directive, and the deal avoids the prospect of a long-drawn-out court case.

The campaign to end large-scale peat extraction has largely been led by Friends of the Earth. The deal was "a massive victory for everyone who has campaigned so hard and so long to save these wildlife sites," said FoE's wildlife campaigner, Craig Bennett.

Comments