Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) urges the Government to take great care to secure the long-term protection of wildlife habitats within England’s publicly-owned forests. In DWT’s view, the current consultation into the sale of publicly-owned forests must recognise that a high proportion of this land has current or potential wildlife value.
valuable land for wildlife may lose out on protection
Dorset Wildlife Trust is concerned that the transfer of ownership of these forests away from the Forestry Commission presents a real risk to the future of natural heritage in the county, because much valuable land for wildlife looks set to fall outside promised protection measures. In Dorset, conifer forests have been planted on ancient woodland sites or former heathland and amount to a significant area with potential to be returned to important wildlife habitat. The process of restoring some of this land has already begun on land owned or leased by the Forestry Commission, but there are no safeguards that this co-operative approach would continue under private ownership. Because the plantations currently are not as rich in wildlife as undamaged habitats, they have no protection, despite the fact that they have great potential to be re-instated to their former glory.
important for people's enjoyment of nature
Other Forestry Commission sites in the county are of great importance to wildlife, and also local people’s enjoyment of nature and the outdoors, and, in DWT’s view, it is important that these values are fully recognised in any plan to sell these sites. DWT’s Director of Conservation, Imogen Davenport, says: “We recognise that the consultation seeks to put some safeguards in place for wildlife, however, we are concerned this does not go far enough. The Forestry Commission has begun to recognise the harm done to wildlife habitats in the past through planting of intensive conifer crops. We do need to ensure that an emphasis on a quick sale does not take us backwards but rather that progress continues towards fully restoring some of our most valued habitats.
Dorset Wildlife Trust will be making a full response to the public consultation which runs until 21st April and can be viewed here.
For more information please contact Imogen Davenport at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.