West Cumbria Rivers Trust aims to preserve rivers and lakes
Last updated at 20:53, Thursday, 17 November 2011
A new environmental trust has been launched in West Cumbria to help protect and develop rivers and lakes.
The West Cumbria Rivers Trust was launched by TV presenter and keen angler Fiona Armstrong at Lillyhall’s Energus Centre.
The BBC news reader said: “Something quite special has been born in West Cumbria tonight.”
The organisation was the brainchild of lawyer John Wilson and environmental worker Ian Creighton, both of Keswick.
Mr Wilson, the trust’s first chairman, told an audience of more than 70 people on Friday that the future health of the Lake District’s rivers and lakes could not be taken for granted.
The trust has been granted Government funding for projects on river improvement and wildlife protection and has ambitions to attract significant finance for major environmental schemes.
Mr Wilson said: “We can make a difference at a time when everyone should feel a moral obligation towards the future of our rivers and lakes.
“But our rivers and lakes are something we simply cannot continue to take for granted.
“We owe it to ourselves and our children to ensure that the river and lakes which have been part of our landscape since the last Ice Age are properly looked after.
“We have to make sure that the natural bio-diversity we have retained is maintained and that the bio-diversity we have lost is restored wherever possible.
“I hope we will ultimately be able to say that from a relatively small beginning we have come a long way towards making some significant improvements to our river systems, their flora and fauna, and the way in which the rivers interact with people.”
The trust was has identified six key objectives: to improve the environmental quality of rivers and lakes; to ensure the sustainable use of rivers and lakes as a community resource; to initiate, fund and lead major projects that also create employment opportunities; to create education programmes within the community, schools and colleges; to achieve these objectives through working with landowners, farmers and all river users; and to conserve the area’s rivers and lakes and their flora and fauna for future generations.
Mr Wilson believes that in three to four years the trust will have 10 full-time employees including more project mangers and an education officer.
The organisation has already been in contact with a number of local schools who said they were keen to work with it.
Projects will include a pilot river restoration programme, designed to restore some upland rivers to their original course and to reverse a trend of draining river beds and creating higher banks with the spoils.
Mr Wilson added: “The drainage practices of the last 100 or so years have significantly increased the prospects of flooding.
“We believe a combination of some re-drainage, re-establishment of wetlands and flood plain land and tree planting could significantly reduce flooding risk in our catchments.”
Mr Wilson also spoke of a proposed project on the River Ehen to save an endangered population of fresh water pearl mussels.
The trust has made an application for funding for this project and will learn if it has been successful in the spring.
Mr Wilson also spoke of the importance of the lakes and rivers to the tourism economy, which in West Cumbria alone was worth £500 million per year.
He added: “However, there are some things that you cannot put a purely financial value on – like swimming in a cool, crystal clear mountain stream in the Langstrath valley, or seeing a salmon leap, or children from an inner city experiencing the joys of the open lake or ghyll scrambling on a first visit to the Lake District.
“Our fishery resources need to be enhanced and protected and there are real opportunities for new angling tourism and job creation.
“We have in mind angling passport schemes which have been very successful elsewhere in the country.
“We aim to deliver real benefits that enhance the natural environment and the economy of the area.”
Other speakers at the launch event included Alistair Maltby from the national Rivers Trust organisation; Jeremy Westgarth, Cumbria area manager from the Environment Agency and Simon Humphries, Cumbria area manager for Natural England.
The audience included representatives of angling clubs, environmental organisations and industry. The event was also attended by Copeland MP Jamie Reed.
First published at 19:24, Thursday, 17 November 2011
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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