Dearne Valley selected as Nature Improvement Area
Nearly £600,000 is to be spent creating wildlife havens in South Yorkshire's Dearne Valley.
The area is one of 12 in England that have been chosen by the government to become Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs).
The Dearne Valley Green Heart Partnership will use the money to restore the River Don floodplain and create new woodlands and wetlands.
Pete Wall, from the partnership, said: "It's absolutely fantastic. We've got a great future ahead of us now."
The partnership is made up of three local authorities, the RSPB, Natural England and the Environment Agency.
Mr Wall, the RSPB's Dearne Valley project manager, said: "The great thing is this recognition, being only one of 12 NIAs in the country, means that this area is going to get so much more investment."
The valley was once the heart of the extensive South Yorkshire coalfield but the Environment Agency said heavy industry left a legacy of polluted rivers and contaminated land.
Over the past five years the partnership has worked to improve rivers and their washlands and created new cycle routes across the valley.
A total of 76 groups had bid to become NIAs.
John Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said: "This is national recognition that we have a special nature area in the Dearne, one that is more exceptional because of our heavy industrial heritage.
"We've come a long way already and this will help fulfil the eco-vision, build on the proven track record of the RSPB and others and make the green heart of the Dearne even greener."