RARE wildlife habitats in Leigh and Wigan have been preserved for the future after being adopted as an important conservation area.
Green organisations hope the decision to make the Manchester Wetlands, which includes Chat Moss, Astley Moss and Wigan Flashes as part of a mosaic of habitats extending from Salford to Warrington, a local Nature Improvement Area (NIA) will also boost jobs and the wider economy.
The protected wetlands contain areas which are vital for preserving the local environment as they capture and retain carbon and provide homes for rare creatures including brown hares and water voles as well as birds and plants.
The decision is a major boost for the region after the wetlands were turned down by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for national NIA status last year.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust chief executive Anne Selby said: “I am really delighted with this development. The Manchester Wetland Partnership put in a very strong bid, and were very unlucky not to be chosen by Defra.
“We welcome the three strands of the partnership, which are to improve biodiversity, deliver carbon savings and also social benefits.
“By adopting it as a local NIA we are showing our support and giving it formal recognition of the value of its work both to nature improvement, local communities, and the local economy.”
The partnership hopes to get more people and businesses involved in the conservation work, through creating jobs and providing volunteering and training opportunities, especially in the areas of high social deprivation around the mosses.
Future plans for the wetland, including an investment of £3.7m up to 2015, include creating new reedbeds and wet woodland areas to provide larger homes for threatened species, and to join existing protected areas together with green wildlife corridors.