Shooters will be at the forefront of conserving the UK's protected dormouse population thanks to a grant of £84,000 secured by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).
The money will be used by BASC, the UK's largest shooting organisation, to create and link new habitats in Cheshire where it is hoped the mammals will thrive side by side with game shooting.
Dormice have disappeared from most of the north of England and are extremely rare in Cheshire. One of the other top achievements of BASC's Green Shoots conservation programme was the discovery of the first evidence of native dormice in Cheshire for 100 years. The grant will help BASC's efforts to try and increase dormouse numbers in the county.
BASC's Green Shoots team secured the funding from SITA Trust to launch a new scheme - The South West Cheshire Dormouse Project.
The project will create a 17km length of connected habitat between a dormouse population in the Wych Valley and the Sandstone Ridge, via woodland near Tilston where BASC discovered a dormouse nest on a member's shoot.
Woodland and hedgerows connected together form corridors for wildlife across farmland. The project will create an ecological network for dormice and a range of other animal and plant species.
Ian Danby, BASC's head of biodiversity projects, said: "This is a practical demonstration of the value of conservation work carried out on shoots and farms. Management for dormice is complementary to game and rough shooting so BASC members and farmers in the project will see a direct benefit to their shooting interests because game birds will also thrive in the habitat created for the dormice.
"Current conservation strategy is directing everyone towards large-scale habitat conservation projects. This award shows that BASC and its members can lead the way in this area. We are heartened by the support from SITA Trust and look forward to achieving the project's aims with the ongoing support of our partners in the project, the Cheshire region Biodiversity Partnership.
"This project will show the importance of using the knowledge and conservation work which goes into shoots. This work and the entire Green Shoots programme are firmly putting shooting at the forefront of conservation efforts."
Notes to editors Photographs are available to download from http://basc.thirdlight.com
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*Twenty eight per cent of all the land in Cheshire is managed for shooting and much of it has been linked in to conservation efforts.
*The other top achievements of BASC's Green Shoots programme in Cheshire include the recovery of the water vole population on the River Gowy by trapping and humanely dispatching mink.
*Shooters spend 2.7 million work days on conservation - the equivalent of 12,000 full-time jobs.
*Shooting is involved in the management of two thirds of the rural land area.
*Shoot providers spend £250 million a year on conservation.
. SITA Trust is an independent funding body set up in 1997 to provide funding through the Landfill Communities Fund. To date SITA Trust has supported more than 2800 projects to a combined value of over £76 million.
. SITA Trust receives its funding through HM Government's Landfill Communities Fund. Funding is donated by SITA UK, one of the nation's largest recycling and resource management companies. For more information please call the BASC press office on 01244 573031. An ISDN line is available for radio interviews.More Articles by British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) ...