Wildlife Sites (1) and Sites of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC) are areas of land recognised for their importance for wildlife, which fall outside the legal protection of the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) system. Together with SSSI sites these form the core of a vital network of threatened habitats such as ancient woodlands, hay meadows, wetlands and neutral grasslands, providing space for many of the Wales’ declining animal and plant species. In Wales there are over 4700 sites covering an area of about 800sq km (equivalent to almost 4% of Wales). Wildlife sites in common with SINC sites undergo the same robust selection criteria and are an integral part of national and local planning legislation. The ambition is for sites identified as Wildlife sites and SINC sites to be monitored for condition every few years and management recommendations made to support management practices that conserve and enhance the value of these sites for wildlife.
(1) where there is a correspondence with a landowner and agreed management plan for wildlife the sites are referred to as Wildlife sites. SINC sites generally do not have an agreed management plan as landowner contact has not commenced or is in the early stages.
The Local Wildlife Sites – South East (SE) Wales Project was a Pilot Study that ran throughout 2014. It was undertaken by Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT) and the Wildlife Trust for South & West Wales (WTSWW) with collaboration from other conservation organisations and Local Authorities. It was funded by the Welsh Assembly through the Resilient Ecosystems Fund.
The project aimed to start the process of creating a Local Wildlife Site network across SE Wales through publicising Local Wildlife Sites, engagement with landowners, undertaking of surveys, provision of educational materials, the costing of habitat management work required and the production of a strategy for the long-term management of the Local Wildlife Site network.
The project can list the following main achievements throughout 2014:
Following up this work, GWT and WTSWW undertook further LWS work in the first half of 2015. This work focused on the upland areas of the South Wales Eastern Valleys. A further 6 no. Toolkits were prepared to compliment the 14 produced during 2014. Additionally a further 20 no. LWS were surveyed and advice given the landowners with further landowners engaged for future involvement. GWT and WTSWW are still actively undertaking LWS work. GWT are currently resurveying 150 no. sites (50 a year 2015-2017) which were originally surveyed pre-2008 to update species lists, descriptions, boundaries and habitat maps as well as providing further management advice to owners.
WTSWW are undergoing an 18 month programme of LWS work in Rhondda Cynon Taf which will involve landowner engagement and promotion of the value of LWS and good practice management techniques. The project will be carried out in collaboration with South Wales Fire Service, with the aim of preventing grassland arson through better management of vulnerable sites.