A petition by the John Muir Trust aimed at conserving Britain's remaining wild land has been welcomed by environment secretary Owen Paterson.
Speaking after the issue was brought to his attention, the minister said: "The government recognise the importance of protecting our finest landscapes and the health and well-being benefits that access to the natural environment can bring."
Advocacy officer at the trust Sheila Wren welcomed the statement, but said such sentiments must be "turned into action in 2013".
She said one of the ways the government could act this year to protect landscapes for the benefit of those who like to go walking
- and other outdoor pursuits - would be to approve the proposed extensions to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks, which have been recommended by Natural England.
This would bring 488 sq km under the protection such status provides, Ms Wren suggested.
Earlier this week, Mr Paterson announced a public inquiry into the plan, which would see two small areas added to the Lake District on its east side and two extensions on the west and north sides of the Yorkshire Dales.
It would mean the two national parks being separated by no more than the width of the M6 at one point near Tebay.