Wildlife and Biodiversity


The Yorkshire Dales contains many different types of wildlife habitat, including moorland, hay meadows, woodland, limestone pavement and calcareous grassland. Some of these habitats are nationally or internationally rare and are prioritised for conservation. Because of this array of habitats, the Dales has wonderful potential for hosting a wide variety of species of wildlife.

Much of the Dales landscape is essentially human-made, and the biodiversity which flourishes has evolved alongside traditional farming activities.

Biodiversity is one of the reasons that the Dales is such a special place, providing opportunities for visitors and residents to observe and interact with the natural world. Such interaction is recognised as important for humans’ well-being and mental health.

High levels of biodiversity also bring other benefits, such as resilience to climate breakdown and provision of reservoirs for species that may be important for agriculture.  It is possible to extrapolate from these factors into economic benefits.

However, in recent decades there has been a huge global decline in biodiversity as a result of human activities. This has been echoed in the Dales, where significant losses of species and habitats have occurred: most of the traditional hay meadows have been lost as a result of intensification of farming; moorland biodiversity has been damaged through heather-burning, excessive drainage and the persecution of birds of prey; woodland has declined because of inadequate management; and upland grasslands have been degraded through over-grazing. .  Climate breakdown is also contributing significantly to the decline in species and the composition of vulnerable habitats.

Part of the statutory purposes of a National Park is to conserve and enhance the wildlife of the area, and to address these challenges, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has put forward a plan to improve biodiversity in the Dales: Nature in the Dales – a 2020 Vision.  The Plan recognises the significance of the habitats and species found in the Dales, and focuses on ways to maintain them and improve them. This co-ordinated approach involves working with farmers, land-owners and conservationists.

In recent times the concept of ‘re-wilding’ has become current.  But the promotion of increased biodiversity (through the protection and recovery of peat bogs, woodlands and species-rich grasslands) as well as reducing pollution and challenging current destructive practices, is a preferable approach.

Our policies

  • We recognise that biodiversity is a key feature of the special qualities of the Dales.
  • We believe that biodiversity and wildlife have an intrinsic value that is worth protecting for the good of the planet and that they should also be protected and enhanced because of their multiple benefits for human society.
  • We recognise that there are continuing threats to biodiversity and wildlife, and that these must be countered, and measures taken to reverse such trends.
  • We believe that the implementation of the YDNPA Nature Recovery Strategy is an urgent priority.

What we will do

  • We will support the nation-wide efforts of the Campaign for National Parks to promote a richer wildlife in all national parks.
  • We will support the efforts of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to improve biodiversity in the Dales, by improving habitats for wildlife and by protecting endangered species.
  • We will work with other charities and organisations dedicated to improving biodiversity.
  • We will campaign for robust agri-environment support schemes to be made easily accessible to farmers, to encourage ‘High Nature Value’ farming.
  • We will support the ‘payment by results’ scheme introduced by YDNPA in Wensleydale, which has won the support of farmers and also national recognition.
  • We will engage with the current debate about ‘re-wilding’, but we will avoid this term since it implies a return to an earlier state of nature in Britain than we believe is practical or even desirable.
  • Within our own organisation, we will contribute towards the goal of improved biodiversity by undertaking the following:
    • A campaign to increase biodiversity in roadside verges, through better verge management.
    • Making comments on planning applications that may impact on biodiversity, and advocating planning conditions that may protect or enhance biodiversity.
    • Promoting awareness of biodiversity to members of the public and visitors to the Dales (for example through guided botanical walks).
    • Publishing articles about biodiversity in the Yorkshire Dales Review and elsewhere, to promote understanding and knowledge of the issues surrounding biodiversity.