A £3m green farming scheme aims to protect two of England’s most treasured moorlands.

Wildlife on Ilkley Moor and Danby Common – both in Yorkshire – will benefit from the funding under Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme.

Landowners and graziers across more than 5500ha (13,590 acres) will be encouraged to control sheep numbers to benefit ground nesting birds, improve footpaths and boost public access.

The project was officially launched on Monday (11 May).

Natural England chairman Poul Christensen said: “Green farming schemes not only help to protect our wildlife and support farming enterprises, they also provide people with more opportunities to get out enjoy the natural environment.

The moors are important habitats for birds such as the curlew, red grouse, golden plover and snipe.

Heather moors looming over the towns of Ilkley and Burley-in-Wharfedale will benefit from £1m of funding.

Damaged footpaths, walls and gates will be restored.

Bracken will be carefully controlled to return areas to good quality heath and prevent further damage to historical features.

Areas of the moor badly damaged by fire two years ago will be re-seeded to restore it to its original condition.

The 4500ha expanse of Danby Common in the heart of the North York Moors National Park will benefit from £2m of support.

A shepherd will be employed to look after two new flocks of sheep to benefit heather regeneration.

Local farmer Martin Foord said the agreement would help the management of the common.

“It will help to secure a sustainable future for moorland sheep flocks which are so important in maintaining the health of the moors.”