RAPIDLY declining wildlife grasslands have been highlighted as a major concern by the country’s wildlife trusts.

Reports collated from across the country tell a story of devastating losses and in Cumbria hundreds of hectares have been lost since the 1970s.

The data shows that surveys of upland hay meadow local wildlife sites in the county between 2008-2011 led to the ‘deselection’ of 35 out of a total of 128 sites.

At 15 of the sites traditional hay meadows had disappeared.

In the Lake District national park, surveys of 223.47 hectares of hay meadow wildlife sites between the late ‘70s and early 2000s led to 183.26 hectares being deselected as local wildlife sites.

Reports from around the country suggest that remaining grasslands are quickly vanishing and that the wildlife that depends on them is under serious threat.

The trust is calling for the government to take immediate action and says that farming is key to sustaining what wildlife-rich grasslands that are left.

It claims that the decline is happening as a result of changes in agricultural practices and general neglect of the sites.

The report says that wildlife-rich grasslands provide great benefits to society and are vital resources: * for bees and other pollinators which we all rely on * to enable soils and landscapes to hold and filter water, preventing flooding and pollution * for carbon storage * for the myriad wildlife which depends on wild grasses and flowers, from butterflies to barn owls Stephen Trotter, the trusts’ director for England, said that if Government fails to take action the country will lose an important natural resource that benefits farming, wildlife and people.

“The Government is currently making decisions on how it will implement the greening measures of the Common Agricultural Policy and how it will target grants to farmers in the future,” said Mr Trotter. “We are calling on ministers to take full account of the value of our remaining wildlife-rich grasslands and the threats they face as they make these decisions.”

An e-petition aimed at the Environmental Secretary has been launched by the trust called ‘Save our Vanishing Grasslands’ and will run for five weeks.

More information about the online petition can be found at www.wildlifetrusts.org/dontfadeaway