The funding will be used to "knit together" precious habitats as part of an England-wide Nature Recovery Network.
G7 'legacy' project launched to protect and restore nature across Cornwall
The UK government has pledged an initial £700,000 for a nature recovery project in Cornwall as a "legacy" of this week's G7 summit.
The funding, secured by Cornwall Council, Natural England and Cornwall Wildlife Trust and others, will be used to "knit together" precious habitats as part of an England-wide Nature Recovery Network.
This will mean connecting national nature reserves such as Goss Moor to other important areas for nature, such as the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the coast and heritage sites.
The government has also announced plans to make Cornwall the first net-zero region of the UK.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The focus of government policy is to move towards nature’s recovery.
"That means doing more than just protecting a dwindling number of remaining sites. It means creating new habitats and making new spaces for nature.
"I am delighted that Cornwall will now be one of the first areas in the country where we deploy this new thinking with this project around Goss Moor.
"It involves reclaiming some of the land around the former clay works for nature, which is a fitting legacy of G7.”
Researchers from the University of Exeter welcomed the funding announcement.
“Cornwall’s natural environment underpins its economy, yet the region’s nature continues to decline, threatened by an array of pressures including climate change," said Dr Ilya Maclean, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
"12% of species of principal importance are threatened with extinction in the region, and nearly half of terrestrial mammals and three-fifths of butterflies are found in fewer places than 30 years ago.
"In partnership with Cornwall Council and others, the University of Exeter has been providing the evidence base for effective nature recovery by creating a Nature Recovery Network map: an interactive map that shows the places in Cornwall where restoration efforts should be targeted to best effect.
"We are delighted to see the government announcement backing a major drive to restore Cornwall’s natural environment across this network and make Cornwall the first net-zero region of the UK.
"This G7 legacy project will help restore habitats and ecosystems, contributing to the recovery of Cornwall’s threatened and declining wildlife."
Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Defra – in partnership with others – are aiming for the G7 Summit project to deliver a lasting legacy for nature and people by:
• Restoring land through nature recovery and recreating scarce habitats through sustainable farming. Natural regeneration will be used to create scrub and woodland communities; scarce habitats such as heathland and wetland will be created, as well as the development of meadows and pasture, and the restoration of peat mires in the River Fal headwaters.
• Providing opportunities to reintroduce lost species and improving resilience for key species including dormice, marsh fritillary butterflies and willow tit.
• Sequestrating about 440,000 tonnes of CO2 through forest growth and wetland restoration, including peat habitats, improved soil condition and the recovery of marine blue carbon habitats.
• Improving water quality, encouraging fish diversity and abundance, and reducing flood peaks to reduce downstream flooding.
• Improving access to green space and green social prescribing so people across the county can enjoy the wellbeing benefits of contact with nature.
To enable transformation at this scale, the programme will employ skilled staff, develop a green jobs apprenticeship scheme and involve extensive community engagement to "kick-start" the development of nature’s recovery in Cornwall.
It is hoped that once the project is complete, it will act as a major driver for future green prosperity in Cornwall through green jobs, sustainable tourism and farming, and a significant contribution to the national Nature Recovery Network as set out in the Environment Bill.
Carolyn Cadman, Chief Executive of Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “The beauty of Cornwall’s coasts and countryside often masks the pressures which nature faces here, and this announcement is a welcome step forward.
"This builds on the nature recovery work which we and many local businesses and partners in the public and voluntary sectors are undertaking.
"We know that with additional investment and strong environmental laws and protection, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and partners can help deliver bigger, better managed and more joined-up wildlife habitats for nature to thrive.
"We hope the G7 nature recovery legacy project will also help to attract significant new investment to support urgent efforts across the partnership to tackle climate change and reverse the decline in nature.”
The Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter is working with partners to develop innovative responses to environmental change.
To find out more and to watch a new video about this work, visit www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/
Date: 9 June 2021