A CUMBRIAN MP has called for the "rewilding" of rural areas - including the reintroduction of the white-tailed eagle to the county - to deliver more economic opportunities for the north.

Writing on the ConservativeHome website yesterday, Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, said that rewilding could be a big boost to the eco-tourism sector.

'Rewilding' is a fairly new concept in conservation which refers to the restoration of natural ecological systems on land which is currently used or exploited in some way.

Dr Hudson is visiting the RSPB Geltsdale nature reserve in north Cumbria this week along with fellow MPs from the North West.

"There are huge misconceptions surrounding rewilding," he wrote. "Rewilding is an approach to conservation which restores ecosystems by reinstating natural processes: putting nature back in the driving seat.

"In one way, it’s actually a very conservative idea – letting nature take responsibility for itself rather than intensively managing and controlling."

He said that Geltsdale has achieved good outcomes from this approach in terms of biodiversity.

But he said it needed to be approached "sensibly and pragmatically" - on a case-by-case basis with local consent and consultation.

"While we know rewilding delivers good outcomes for wildlife and biodiversity, what has been less well-documented are the benefits for farmers, communities and the local economy. Nature underpins our economic prosperity and resilience.

"For example, healthy peat bogs act like sponges, reducing runoff into rivers and streams during periods of rainfall. This helps to reduce flooding – essential for protecting Cumbrian residents and businesses from the increasingly frequent and severe episodes of heavy rainfall and storms.

"It also improves water quality, so reducing treatment costs which contribute to household bills."

Dr Hudson has written the piece as the UK gears up to host the COP26 climate conference and the UK, no longer part of the EU's common agricultural policy, is replacing its farmer subsidies with new Environmental Land Management schemes.

"The 25 Year Environment Plan recognises the significant potential of the uplands to deliver environmental improvements, creating the prospect for increased investment in nature recovery efforts in Cumbria.

"Already some farmers in my area are ‘re-wiggling’ rivers, re-wetting floodplains and moving to a more mixed, rotational farming system."

He said that in Cumbria, the return of the white-tailed eagle could help to reverse "the historic decline of wildlife" while boosting eco-tourism.

"Many people in Cumbria work in farming and tourism," he added. "With the right investment, Cumbria is well positioned to take advantage of this new land economy.

"That’s why the restoration of our natural heritage should be at the forefront of the rural levelling-up agenda."