SHEEP farmers in the South Pennines are to get a cash boost to help protect the region's wildlife.
Government organisation English Nature is handing out £250,000 to encourage moorland farmers to keep sheep.
The money will be targeted at the South Pennines Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest between Huddersfield and Sheffield.
Sheep grazing is a vital part in the maintenance of heathland, which is a habitat for hundreds of wildlife species.
As well as scarce plants and insects they also support internationally important breeding birds including merlin, golden plover, curlew, twite and the short-eared owl.
Paul Duncan, English Nature's local conservation officer said sheep grazing and grouse moor management have modified the moors but also helped to maintain the South Pennine's most important habitats and bird population.
The cash aims to give farmers financial incentives to continue managing the land in this way.
In recent years the cost of shepherding across huge areas of moorland led to many farmers giving up.
The cash is a further boost to the £2.5m handed out last year in the Sheep and Wildlife Enhancement Scheme.
Andy Clements, English Nature's Director of Designated Sites, said: "The success of last year's scheme shows it is making a real difference to sheep farmers and wildlife," he said.