NATIONAL park bosses have outlined the challenges they face in conserving and boosting wildlife following criticism over the state of creatures in its highly protected landscapes.

The North York Moors National Park Authority said it was confident there have been some strong achievements in establishing and strengthening corridors for wildlife to thrive across the park, but competing priorities and challenges to secure long-term resources were having “a limiting effect”.

Earlier this year RSPB researchers found while on average 26 per cent of designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest within English national parks were in a favourable condition, the North York Moors came in lowest, with just 11 per cent of such sites in good condition. 

At the time an RSPB spokeswoman said: “People want to experience a countryside rich in plants and animals rather than barren moorland. National parks are national assets that have a duty to protect and enhance our wildlife. However, evidence at the moment shows this just isn’t happening.”

However, the authority’s scrutiny committee was told the park authority had ploughed £1.9m into work since 2012 to support

a diverse range of species and habitats.

Members heard against a target of establishing 132 wildlife connections across the park by this year, 95 were made, a 71 per cent success rate.

Thirty of the areas have seen work completed to achieve key ecological connections and significant improvement work has been launched in a further 56 areas.

The meeting was told species, such as wading birds, had thrived in the national park through positive habitat management.

Chairman of the North York Moors National Park Authority Jim Bailey said the conservation work had shown making a long-term difference to wildlife in the park would take many years to achieve and that the authority’s ambitions had not matched the staff resources available.

He said while the authority had questioned whether national parks should be granted police-style powers to protect wildlife in the recent Government commissioned Glover Review of national parks, it would be “hopeless taking on these powers without more resources”.

Mr Bailey said: “It could be counter-productive, raising public expectations further over our ability to conserve wildlife.” 

In the meantime, he said projects such as Ryevitalise, which has recently seen the authority secure nearly £2 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to improve water quality and restore biodiversity across an area from the Cleveland Hills to the Howardian Hills, would help bring focus to wildlife conservation. 

Nevertheless, he said the authority faced ongoing challenges in establishing wildlife corridors as much of the land was privately owned. Mr Bailey said the authority had worked hard to keep a practical working relationship with landowners, but those processes were time-consuming.

Mr Bailey said: “We have to do it hand in hand with people. Sometimes that might be giving them a bit of a kick, but often it will be by persuasion. By and large we have a very good relationship with landowners.

“There are always people who are disappointed by such things as planning processes, but in some other national parks I don’t see such a good relationship. In the carefully managed landscape of the North York Moors these relationships are perhaps more important for conserving wildlife than in areas dominated by mountains or lakes.”