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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Land deal for rare butterflies
High brown fritillary
The high brown fritillary is only found in two places in Wales

Two of Wales' rarest butterflies provided the impetus for a groundbreaking land agreement.

Allt Dolanog, near Lake Vyrnwy in the north of Powys, is the only site in Wales which is home to the threatened high-brown fritillary and pearl-bordered fritillary species.

A land agreement has ensured the 100-acre site is the first in the UK to safeguard a species and habitat outside a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The agreement between groups who use the common at Allt Dolanog will ensure the future of the butterflies, which have seen a 90% decline in numbers during the last 50 years.

The nine or 10 farmers who make up the Commoners Association were as anxious as anyone to protect the butterfly
Dr Simon Spencer, butterfly expert

Sheep will be stopped from grazing part of the site for six weeks every spring under the agreement to protect the violet plants on which caterpillars of the butterflies feed.

Tom Jones, chairman of the Allt Dolanog Commoners Association, said that another part of the agreement involved a reduction in bracken cutting.


"Allt Dolanog is unusual in that the bracken is still cut as bedding for cattle," he said.

"The agreement with Powys council will make sure this continues on most of the common but certain areas important for butterflies will no longer be cut, but managed by conservation contractors instead."

Andy Law, CCWs Montgomeryshire team leader, said both butterflies are found on bracken slopes but quickly disappear if the bracken becomes too dense or too thin.

"This agreement will ensure that Allt Dolanog remains a special place for these two beautiful butterflies."

Pearl-bordered fritillary
The butterfly's future is dependent on it feeding on violets

The high brown fritillary, which is chestnut coloured with black markings, is only found at one other site in Wales.

Meanwhile, the pearl-bordered fritillary is only found in 10 other areas in Wales and has similar markings but is half the size of the high brown species.

Dr Simon Spencer, the Llanfyllin-based butterfly enthusiast who first found the butterflies at Allt Dolanog in 1992, said the agreement would not have happened without the goodwill of the local farmers.

"The nine or 10 farmers who make up the commoners association were as anxious as anyone to protect the butterfly," he added.

New powers were given to CCW with the amended 2000 Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which allowed this agreement to take place.

"It is very exciting that a mechanism is now in place to protect important sites without having to make them SSSIs," said Dr Spencer.

SSSIs are chosen for their biological or geological interest. They are recognised as the jewels in the crown of nature conservation.

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