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A new fund of up to £2 million to protect and enhance Scotland’s nature has been launched.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued a call for ambitious ideas to improve habitats, safeguard species and encourage increased access to nature.
Up to £2 million will be available through the two-year Biodiversity Challenge Fund, which was announced in the Scottish Government’s programme for government last year.
The first year of the fund is now open, with up to £1 million of investment available in 2019/20.
The funding will support large-scale projects that aim to deliver rapid change on the ground to increase the health and resilience of our natural environment.
SNH is particularly seeking innovative ideas that will help our most at-risk habitats and species, including mammals and birds, connect existing nature reserves and protected areas and tackle invasive species.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham launched the fund at SNH’s Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, where she joined volunteers planting native broadleaf trees to attract red squirrels.
Ms Cunningham said: ‘Scotland is leading the way with work to protect our natural environment and we are committed to doing more to safeguard our biodiversity, species and habitats.
‘I’m delighted to launch this new fund of up to £2 million, which should enable the creation and improvement of habitats across the country, providing vital support to some of our most vulnerable wildlife, as well as encouraging people to access and enjoy Scotland’s incredible natural resources.’
SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: ‘Our nature – from the green spaces in our towns and cities to our remote and wild mountains, islands, coasts and seas – is a precious national asset and a big part of what makes Scotland so special.
‘Scotland has been recognised as a global front-runner for our efforts to tackle biodiversity loss and safeguard our natural heritage, with notable improvements to our marine environment, peatlands, rivers and woodlands in recent years.
‘I’m proud of the progress that has been made, but we are not complacent in the face of ongoing challenges such as climate change, habitat loss and invasive non-native species.
‘This significant new investment will step up action by supporting ambitious projects to deliver concrete results and help protect our country’s incredible natural resources for future generations.’