Reintroduction of wolves ruled out of Dales nature recovery strategy

Wolf file pic. Photo: Tambako.

A nature recovery strategy for the Yorkshire Dales will not lead to wolves and big cats roaming the national park, a meeting has been told, but it will set out to encourage action to help struggling species.

A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority heard while agreeing an ecological plan was important as government and private funding available to farmers and landowners in the Dales was likely to be tied to environmental issues, a consensus had yet to be agreed between interest groups on several issues, such as the amount of trees which should be planted in the park.

Senior officers said it would not be possible to reach a resolution over all areas of contention, but as fresh government environmental policies were expected the strategy would not be finalised before June next year.

The strategy is being developed after studies identified how the park has significant areas of 17 different habitats and more than 100 different species that are UK priorities and have been facing national declines.

It also follows a commitment by interest groups in the park to making “the Yorkshire Dales home to the finest variety of wildlife in England”.

The park’s nationally important wildlife populations include black grouse,  rare plants such as bird’s-eye primrose, globeflower and baneberry, scarce invertebrates such as the northern brown argus butterfly and mammals, such as the red squirrel.

It is hoped the strategy will help create networks for the park’s abundant wildlife to increase biodiversity in its surrounding areas.

The draft strategy proposes what officers have described as a “relatively modest” increase in the proportion of the park covered by native woodland  from 4.5 per cent to seven per cent alongside creating nature recovery areas across 15 per cent of the park.

Although both targets have been criticised as insufficiently ambitious by some, several members raised concerns over calls to radically change the management of land, and in particular burning of the heather moorland to encourage regrowth and habitats for grouse, following proposals to phase it out.

Environmentalists have cited how a University of Leeds study concluded burning grouse moors degrades peatland habitat, releases climate-altering gases, reduces biodiversity and increases flood risk.

However, Wensleydale farmer Allen Kirkbride told the meeting long heather caused “chaos for square miles” when it caught fire.

He said: “The idea of not burning heather is ludicrous.”

The authority’s outgoing member champion for the environment, Ian McPherson, said it faced a challenge in deciding how much of the national park should be set aside for nature recovery areas.

He said: “What we are trying to do is get a good balance between the needs of environmentalists, farmers and land managers.”

Mr McPherson said while the possibility of reintroducing some native species to the area was being considered as part of the strategy it would not see “wolves and lynx and so on roaming the Yorkshire Dales”, but instead seek to raise awareness some species were at a low ebb.


  1. Nature recovery areas should encompass close to 100 % of the National Park. There can be no justification for not embracing nature recovery within the entirety of a National Park. If the natural environment is not the priority then the National Park designation is not warranted or justified and should be removed. The Yorkshire Dales have been a National Park since 1954, environmental protection and progress to date has been painfully slow and ineffective. Now we are all facing the current climate crisis and nature emergency and the time for stalling and half measures is over. Landowners who are not onboard with nature recovery and environmental protection need to move out and make room for those who understand the issues and the urgent need to implement nature and environmental recovery.

  2. What a pity. I would have liked the challenge of looking out for wolves during my strolls in the Dales.

  3. The Dales landscape has some of the highest and stable populations of red and amber listed species in the U.K. Birds like curlew, golden plover and black grouse are not hard to find on our moorlands. Contrast this with other areas of unmanaged comparable habitats such as in Wales, the Lake District, Dartmoor etc and the picture is tragically very different. The Dales ought to be proud of its flora and fauna and recognise the management that produces these important assemblages. Heather burning plays a critical role in sustaining these environments and equally important is that it radically minimises the risk of catastrophic wildfires with the unthinkable consequential losses of stored carbon when peat is ignited. Newer research is revealing that controlled cool burns are important in maintaining these precious uplands and preferable to cutting. It’s perfectly understandable that people want to take steps to reduce emissions, decrease carbon loss and protect the environment. But banning controlled burning is not the solution. Leaving fuel loads to build will result inevitably to summer fires especially as tourism and warmer temperatures from climate change are likely to occur. Our moorland custodians have done a great job over the centuries to protect these landscapes and to create these internationally recognised habitats. They’re the experts. Let them get on with the job and let’s remind ourselves why these areas were designated as national park, SSSI etc in the first place.

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