Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Forest Design Plan

NFA Presentment for the Verderers Court 15th June 2016

[The Forest Design Plan is both the Forestry Commission’s long term vision for the Inclosures, and the Felling License and Restocking Plan for the next ten years. The current draft of the plan is open to a public consultation until 4th July 2016]

“A significant proportion of woodlands in the Inclosures will be modified to restore pasture woodlands, heathlands, valley mires and Ancient and Semi-Natural native woodland where these are appropriate. A consequence of the modification will be that the present overall balance between broadleaves and conifers will be changed in favour of broadleaves. The pace of this modification will depend on markets, availability of resources and a desire to avoid unnecessary premature felling of existing growing trees, the removal of which will be necessary for restoration of habitats.

– Plan for the Inclosures, Minister’s Mandate For the Forest 1999-2008 (July 1999)

The NFA find that the proposed Forest Design Plan comes much closer to delivering on this promise than the plan made a decade ago. Additionally it is in keeping with policies and directives including Policy on Ancient Woodland Sites, the SAC management plan, the Lawton White Paper and even an aesthetic nuance demanded by the 1877 New Forest Act.

Last month the court heard an accusation that the plan would reduce the Forest to an artificial park. A monocultural crop of uncertain or decreasing commercial value, little or no habitat value is the very definition of a fake landscape held in aspic. While we can’t ask the Forestry Commission to guarantee the economic future of forestry, a more diverse woodland would be safer for future climate change and biosecurity. The Forest has been a working forest long before the proliferation of blocks of non native conifers, and can be again. Plantation and managed woodland and habitat restoration may co-exist within a naturally structured functional ecosystem.

The NFA welcomes the broad intent of the plan. However, we find the current draft flawed at the detail level, the good intentions have not been applied in a way that will produce the needed functional habitat. Without serious attention to these details, the plan would likely fail the habitats regulation hurdles of the inspectorate. The NFA offer the Forestry Commission our resources and experienced ecologists to assist and will encourage like minded knowledgeable organizations to follow suit. We hope the Verderers may add their collective wisdom of the Forest’s ecology, history and law to our efforts.

Presentment made at the Verderers Court by Brian Tarnoff, Chair, NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee.