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We are delighted that the Red Squirrel Recovery Network project, an ambitious cross-border red squirrel conservation initiative, has received development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to progress plans for a 5-year project. The project is led by Northumberland Wildlife Trust working in partnership with the Cumbrian Wildlife Trust, the Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust, the Southern Uplands Partnership and Knowsley Safari Foundation in Prescot in Merseyside.
Southern Uplands Partnership is very happy to be the partner organisation covering South Scotland in this project: the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and South and East Ayrshire.
Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to protect and conserve populations of red squirrels in the north of England and southern Scotland.
Development funding of £158,600 has been awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help Northumberland Wildlife Trust and a team of partners progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant at a later date.
Caroline Clark, The National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said:
“Red squirrels are such a special, and much-loved, part of our native ecosystem. To help them survive and thrive we need to work together.
“With Heritage Fund support this cross-border partnership will work with communities to develop effective solutions to one of the biggest threats to red squirrel survival, and help expand the areas in northern England and southern Scotland where the habitat gives red squirrel populations the best chance to thrive.”
During the 12-month development phase the countrywide team will develop the methodology for large scale grey squirrel fertility control, plan audience engagement and activity programmes and write a conservation plan.
In addition, team members will work together to collect baseline data across the project areas on squirrel presence/absence, grey squirrel management activity and volunteer demographics to establish the current range of volunteers as well as identify opportunities to encourage new volunteers.
There will be a public awareness programme to inform the public on the relationship between squirrels and pine martens – a natural predator of squirrels, and the impact they may have on both reds and greys.
During the delivery phase the project will establish the governance for a community grant, provided by the RSRN, to local community groups in the delivery phase enabling them to undertake their own red squirrel conservation projects.
The UK is at a critical point in the recovery of red squirrels as grey squirrels have driven reds out of the majority of mainland England and parts of Scotland, putting them at risk of extinction. The project will also be working on the establishment of delivery methods for the grey squirrel contraceptive.
The Red Squirrel Recovery Network (RSRN) aims to ensure the future of red squirrels by bringing together conservation partners and volunteer groups across the red squirrel range in southern Scotland and northern England.
The project also plans to engage new audiences, help build a resilient volunteer community, and connect people to nature.