15th November 2017

November 15 sees the official launch of one of one the most ambitious conservation programmes in England - Back from the Brink.

Project partners, volunteers and other distinguished guests are coming together in Windsor to celebrate the launch of the programme, which aims to bring 20 species back from the brink of extinction. The project has been made possible thanks to £4.6m National Lottery funding, awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

This is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species.

The National Lottery funding will also help a further 200 species that are under threat including the grey long-eared bat, pine marten, willow tit, lesser butterfly orchid and hedgehog.

Dr Carol Williams, Bat Conservation Trust Director of Conservation, said "Back from the Brink offers is a tremendously important opportunity to work together at a sufficiently substantial scale to really make a positive difference to many of our most vulnerable species, including the grey long-eared bat. By working together we hope to inspire even more people to get involved with conservation and connect to nature, while also helping increase awareness and appreciation of the diversity of English wildlife that is distinct to the landscapes and habitats around our communities and that enriches our lives."

Natural England chairman, Andrew Sells, said "This project is nothing short of a revolution in conservation. Never before have so many people pledged to work together to save so many of England's individual plants and animals. It comes not a moment too soon for many important species and draws together a wide range of people and organisations."

"We must thank the players of the National Lottery and our other supporters including the Esmé Fairbairn Foundation and People's Postcode Lottery, whose generosity has presented this great opportunity."

Marian Spain, CEO of Plantlife and founder member of Rethink Nature said "We are delighted that the UK's leading conservation organisations are collaborating as never before. It is by coming together now, to pool skills, knowledge and resources, and with the support of the Garfield Weston Foundation and Patsy Wood Trust, that we will save some of England's rarest species from extinction."

"An alarming number of species are teetering on the brink of extinction and we cannot allow them to fall. Nature has an unequalled power to fascinate us, enthral and inspire and we are redoubling our efforts to protect these precious species for future generations."

"People are at the heart of this programme and vital to its success. From getting active outdoors to help manage habitats to sharing your species finds on social media, this project promises everybody the chance to renew their connection with nature while putting over 100 species on the road to recovery."

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said "Back from the Brink is a truly groundbreaking project drawing on expertise from multiple agencies and conservation charities. If all goes to plan, twenty species will be saved from extinction and the prospects of a further two hundred threatened species will be improved - and this is only possible thanks to the money provided by people who play the National Lottery."

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People's Postcode Lottery, said "We are delighted that our players are helping to support such an important conservation project. It's a brilliant collaboration and we wish all the project partners every success in their endeavours."

To celebrate this landmark moment for nature, conservationists and volunteers will prematurely age specially selected trees to create much needed homes for thousands of creatures in the historic grounds of Windsor Great Park. This will involve simulating the exposure to the elements and fungi a tree would expect to see over the course of a century in just one afternoon.

Over 2,000 UK species depend on our ancient trees. An ancient oak can be centuries old and home to a huge number of invertebrates, mosses and lichens, as well as birds and mammals. England is home to a wealth of ancient trees; a recent survey by the Woodland Trust shows that England has more ancient oaks than the rest of Europe. Worryingly this ancient tree habitat, that is so quintessentially English, is under threat and declining.

This is because of the 'age gap'; the fact that there aren't enough younger trees maturing to fill the gap when our existing ancients sadly pass away. This will mean that those species that depend on our deadwood and ancient trees will have no new habitat to move to. Through Back from the Brink, Buglife's tree experts have identified a number of trees suitable for veteranisation - trees that, with a little work can take on the unique features of ancients - to ensure a continuation of habitat for the many rare species found in the park such as the Queen's Executioner Beetle and the Royal Splinter Cranefly.

A team of school children, college students and volunteers from the local community will be planting native trees in Windsor Great Park, trees hopefully destined to become the ancients of the future. Elsewhere on site, experts will be using everything from fungus to pigeon poo to speed up the process of changing a mature tree into an ancient.

Wherever you are in England, you can get involved in bringing species back from the brink, either by taking one of almost 3,000 volunteering opportunities or by donating. The project is live now - to find out how you can take part, find us online at naturebftb.co.uk and @naturebftb.

For press enquiries: Dr Joe Nunez-Mino, Comms@bats.org.uk

0207 820 7183

Editor's notes:

  • Back from the Brink is one of the most ambitious conservation projects ever undertaken. Through 19 projects delivered across England, 20 UK species facing extinction will be brought back from the brink thanks to a £4.6 million grant from the National Lottery. The project is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species. Natural England, the government's wildlife advisory body, will work in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and the RSPB. Together they will pool expertise, develop new ways of working and inspire people across the country to discover, value and act for threatened animals, plants and fungi.
  • Rethink Nature is made up of seven of the UK's leading wildlife charities: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, and the RSPB.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund: Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported

People's Postcode Lottery is a charity lottery. Players play with their postcodes to win cash prizes, while raising money for charities and good causes across Great Britain and globally. A minimum of 31% goes directly to charities and players have raised more than £246 million to date for good causes. £600,000 was awarded to Back from the Brink by the Postcode Green Trust.

Esmé Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations who are building an inclusive, creative and sustainable society. The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. In 2016 we made grants of £42.4 million towards a wide range of work within the arts, children and young people, the environment, food and social change. We also have a £45 million allocation to social investments for organisations with the aim of creating social impact.www.esmeefairbairn.org.uk

  • The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded charitable grant-making trust which supports a wide range of charitable activities across the UK. Established in 1958 by Willard Garfield Weston, the Foundation has donated over £960million, becoming one of the largest and most respected charitable institutions in the UK. In the last financial year the Foundation has donated over £62million. The Trustees are descendants of the founder and the Weston Family takes a highly active and hands-on approach. Over 1800 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation's grants.