THE Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities have responded to calls for "nature to be restored over a much larger area" in the national parks.

The Campaign for National Parks charity says national parks already do "vital work for biodiversity", making them "ideal places to focus the restoration of nature" - but research shows "these places have a long way to go to lead the fight".

The charity said nearly 75 per cent of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England's national parks are in an "unfavourable condition" compared to just over 61 per cent of the total sites across England.

Tim Duckmanton, team leader strategy and programme development at the Lake District National Park Authority, said much work had been done in the past 20 years to try to maintain and restore Lake District habitats and species. He said there was an "urgent need" to improve the state of nature both inside and outside protected sites.

A forthcoming State of the Park Report will show the condition of high fells habitats has improved, especially in SSSIs, he said, and more than 4,900 hectares of peatland is being restored, improving the hydrology of blanket bogs.

He added: "There is now a huge opportunity, with the support of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, to continue to improve wildlife within the park.”

Ian McPherson, member champion for the natural environment at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said the charity was right to "highlight the middling state of nature" in the park.

"There are notable success stories, such as stable populations of curlew, black grouse and red squirrels. Good work is also taking place to restore habitats, such as peatlands, and create woodlands," he said.

"But the sad truth is people visiting the park will be unable to spot any discernible difference in biodiversity compared with non-designated countryside.

"We want that to change, which is why we’re lobbying for Government to give more priority to biodiversity in national parks and for a new, locally delivered agri-environment scheme.

"Our vision is for the Yorkshire Dales to be home to the finest variety of wildlife in England by 2040. That will happen only with serious and sustained investment from government, alongside a commitment from local people, farmers and land managers - many of whom already do an amazing job - to enhance the environment for wildlife.”