Despite their beauty, communities in rural areas can be impoverished
There must be a "fundamental rethink" about how the nation values the uplands of England, a report has said.
The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) says a programme of integrated policies is needed to protect hill communities and the landscape.
A year-long inquiry found areas such as the Lake District, Dartmoor and the North York Moors were impoverished.
The commission is calling for an approach which would see farmers being paid for looking after the countryside.
The BBC's rural affairs correspondent, Jeremy Cooke, said that despite the scenery in what are some of England's most treasured regions, upland communities are struggling.
Wages are low while house prices have soared as the more affluent leave the city for life in the countryside.
He added that it was increasingly difficult for hill farmers to make any profit, but without their sheep the entire landscape would be radically altered and overgrown.
The CRC, an independent body which acts as an adviser and watchdog for the government, is calling for a "joined-up approach" which would see farmers being paid for looking after the countryside, just as much as for the lambs they produce.
It also wants changes in planning rules to make more affordable housing and says the national parks authorities should be given more powers.
Recommendations in the report include targeting funding under the Common Agricultural Policy to reward farmers for protecting natural assets.
The report said: "Rather than defining these areas purely by their agricultural disadvantage, the nation should be considering them as areas that offer great public benefit and environmental value.
"Not only are they iconic landscapes, providing space, tranquillity, beauty and preserving cultural heritage, but they are also working areas that deliver crucial goods and services to sustain and support human livelihoods."
Ian Woodhurst, senior rural policy officer for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "They are not just disadvantaged, declining and remote.
"They have a vital role in helping to tackle the nation's future environmental challenges.
"But, for them to be capable of delivering this role we need close partnership working between upland communities, government departments and agencies, local authorities, businesses and environmental organisations."