A successful project using offenders completing Community Payback to improve wildlife habitats and rivers, as well as teach new skills, could be rolled out across the country by Natural Resources Wales in partnership with Wales Probation.
The project, which started life in southeast Wales, involved groups of offenders supervised by Wales Probation staff clearing litter and bramble and building fences to better manage livestock on important wildlife sites.
Following the pilot, that helped wildlife to thrive, improved the area for people and gave an opportunity for offenders to develop new skills, the body is now looking to expand the project to other parts of Wales.
The offenders started their work by clearing 2 tonnes of litter from an area alongside the Dowlais Llwyd River near Cwmbran in Gwent that had been blighted by rubbish in the past.
They followed this with a much bigger job on the Gwent Wildlife Trust Farm near Penallt.
A large area of bramble was cleared from a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which would allow important species of plant space to grow. They then installed a fence to help manage the grassland better, by controlling the grazing.
Similar work was also carried out at Dan Y Graig Quarry SSSI near Risca which will now be better for wildlife and give better access for geology students to assess an important area.
Ioan Williams, from Natural Resources Wales, said:
“Providing a better environment for people and for wildlife is an important part of our work.
“What has also been rewarding is the feedback from the people involved about the experience and the skills they have learnt.
“This project shows that doing work to improve our natural environment not only has clear benefits for wildlife, it can also have wider benefits for society.”
Annette Murray, Reserves Officer at Gwent Wildlife Trust said:
“The community payback work provided by the Wales Probation has contributed significantly towards habitat restoration at Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Pentwyn Farm Reserve in Penallt.
“To maintain the area, offenders carefully removed brambles, to make sure meadow species like the Green-winged Orchid, the Yellow-rattle and the Bird’s-foot-trefoil has an optimum environment to grow this spring."
Graham Thomas, Community Payback Development Manager for Wales Probation said:
“This project is an excellent example of partnership working between Wales Probation, Gwent Wildlife Trust and Natural Resources Wales where offenders have made a valuable contribution towards enhancing the environment in what is a sensitive area”.