Memorandum submitted by English Nature
1. English Nature is the statutory body
that champions the conservation and enhancement of the wildlife
and natural features of England. We work for wildlife in partnership
with others, by:
advisingGovernment, other agencies,
local authorities, interest groups, business communities, individuals
on nature conservation in England ;
the special nature conservation sites in England;
enablinghelping others to manage
land for nature conservation, through grants, projects and information;
enthusingadvocating nature conservation
for all and biodiversity as a key test of sustainable development.
We have statutory responsibilities for nationally-important
nature conservation sites: Sites of Special Scientific Interest,
the most important of which are managed as National Nature Reserves.
Through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee,
English Nature works with sister organisations in Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland to advise Government on UK and international
nature conservation issues.
2. English Nature welcomes the changes that
have taken place in the Forestry Commission over the last 15 years,
and the increasingly close co-operation between ourselves and
the Forestry Commission in delivering the Government's Biodiversity
Action Programme over the last five years (Annex 1). There is
a need for this to be better reflected as a positive element in
the Forestry Commission's accounts to Treasury. We would not wish
biodiversity and other environmental work cut during what we realise
is a difficult time financially for the Forestry Commission because
of low timber prices. In England, forestry provides significant
3. We have generally good relationships
with the Forestry Commission at all levels, from its Headquarters
in Edinburgh and Cambridge to local offices, and with its agencies
Forest Research and Forest Enterprise. Differences do arise over
particular sites or the rate at which certain changes should take
place (for example clearance of trees off heathland in south-west
England). However, the good working relationship between the two
organisations means that these differences can be resolved without
resorting to the open confrontation that characterised most forestry
and nature conservation debates of the late 70s, early 80s.
4. Devolution has led to a much clearer
focus in the Forestry Commission for forestry in England as reflected
in the England Forestry Strategy. We were pleased to have been
part of its development (Annex 2). While there should continue
to be a strong GB/UK overview on forestry we support the evolution
of distinctive forestry policies in each country reflecting their
differing environmental needs and issues.
5. English Nature encourages a landscape-scale
approach to land-use change: we wish to see the various agri-environment
schemes, energy crops and new woodland developed in ways that
will help to buffer and link existing semi-natural habitats while
avoiding damage to high value areas. Increasingly the Forestry
Commission has shown itself to be sympathetic to this approach
in the development and application of its grant schemes. However
there has seemed at times to be a lack of integration between,
for example, the Farm Woodland Scheme and the Livestock exclusion
Annual Premium (for woods) and what was tending to be encouraged
under other MAFF schemes. Promotion of extensification through
area payments in the uplands has the potential side-effect of
encouraging grazing within woodland to increase the forage area.
We welcome the inclusion of forestry within the same chapter of
RDR as agriculture and the Forestry Commission's role as advisor
to MAFF on Short Rotation Coppice applications as pointers to
closer working in future. English Nature has put forward a proposal
to Government for more joined-up delivery of advisory services
to farmers (memorandum available from English Nature on request).
Bringing forestry advice into this approach would be logical and
6. In south-east England a major threat
to ancient woodland is development. The Forestry Commission has
recently been made a non-statutory consultee on planning applications
that affect ancient woodland. As yet however it is not clear how
far Forestry Commission staff will be willing to take a lead in
questioning proposed developments on the non-statutory ancient
woods where English Nature is not normally involved. We believe
that the Forestry Commission should set out a robust approach
to the protection of semi-ancient natural woodland threatened
We welcome the changes in the Forestry
Commission over the last 15 years.
We believe that a strong country-based
Forestry Commission covering all aspects of its work in England
within a GB/UK overview is essential to deliver the distinctive
nature of forestry in England.
The Forestry Commission's large contribution
to delivering the Government's Biodiversity Action Plan should
be recognised in its accounts. The dire state of the timber market
should not be used as an excuse not to continue with biodiversity
MAFF and the Forestry Commission
should explore whether there are ways that woodland advice can
be better integrated with those for other schemes.
The Forestry Commission should be
encouraged to take a stronger line in opposing the loss through
development of ancient woodland.
13 November 2000
EXAMPLES OF FC ACTIVITY, SUPPORTED BY ENGLISH
NATURE, TO DELIVER THE BIODIVERSITY ACTION PROGRAMME
1. FC chair the UK Woodland Habitat Action Plan
Steering Group on which English Nature is an active member.
2. Joint working over improving procedures
for drawing up woodland grant schemes on SSSIs.
3. English Nature advice to FC in developing
its New Native Woods in National Parks and JIGSAW grant programmes.
4. Felling licences being issued by FC for
clearance of trees to restore heathland under English Naturesponsored
5. Major heathland and wood-pasture restoration
plans being implemented by Forest Enterprise in the New Forest
under English Nature guidance using EU LIFE funds.
6. Several thousands of hectares of
conifers on ancient woodland sites owned by Forest Enterprise
to be restored to Native woodland under plans agreed with English
7. Joint projects with Forest Research to
combine data-sets to improve the knowledge and awareness of England's
ENGLISH NATURE'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE ENGLAND
English Nature is the statutory body responsible
for advising both central and local Government on nature conversation
and for promoting the wildlife and natural features of England.
In fulfilling its duties, English Nature:
advises Ministers on the development
and implementation of policies for nature conservation:
advises Ministers on other policies
affecting nature conservation;
identifies, notifies and safeguards
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs);
establishes and manages National
provides guidance and advice on the
principles and practice of nature conservation to a wide constituency;
commissions and supports research
and other projects relevant to nature conservation.
Through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee,
English Nature works with sister organisations in Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland to advise Government on UK and international
nature conservation issues.
Our general approach to forestry is set out
in our 1994 Position Statement (1) (reviewed in 1997) which we
will be revisiting this autumn.
Our involvement in forestry and the strategy
English Nature was pleased to be part of the
working group that helped in drafting the Strategy. For us (and
for me personally) it represented the latest step in the transformation
of forestry policy and practice that started with the 1985 Broadleaves
Policy and the traumas of the upland afforestation debates in
the 1980s. Since then there has been increasingly close working
in England between the forestry sector and first the Nature Conservancy
Council, then since 1991 English Nature. This has included our
inputs to developing the Forest Practice Guide for semi-natural
woods, the UK Forestry Standards UKWAS standards and criteria
and now the strategy. How then will English Nature be contributing
to its implementation?
Policies for agricultural reform
The key to a countryside richer in woodland
and wildlife lies with taking land out of intensive agriculture.
English Nature, put considerable effort into
the discussions over the Agenda 2000 proposals. Jointly with the
Countryside Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and Countryside
Council for Wales, we commissioned ENTEC consultants to look at
the possible implications of CAP reform for the transfer of land
from farming to forestry (2). The Agencies are currently following
up two strands of that work: the first is looking at the degree
to which land held by "new entrants" to the land market
(second home owners; non-farmer land-owners etc) may be more-or-less
interested in farming than existing farmers. The second project,
which we plan to start later this year, will explore the implications
of land, either deliberately or through neglect, reverting to
woodland naturally (as is common in many other parts of the EU
at present). These projects will provide information that can
be fed into the mid-term review of the Rural Development Regulation.
Strategic development of woodland resource
English Nature supports the expansion of our
woodland resource in a sustainable way. A cornerstone of any rational
future woodland development is a sound understanding of current
resource. The Forestry Commission's National Inventory of Woodland
and Trees (NIWT) plays a key part in this. We have therefore been
working with FC on how we can link our data-sets, such as the
Ancient Woodland Inventory, information on species distribution
and variations in woodland composition, with the NIWT.
A pilot project was run successfully last year
(3) and this is being developed for the rest of England through
a contract with Forest Research. We are similarly looking at the
woodland findings from the Countryside Survey 2000 project. The
results from this work will permit a holistic view to be taken
of the England Woodland resource. Our own contribution to these
data sources, the ancient woodland inventory and SSSI boundaries,
are being made more widely available over the Internet.
Diversification on farms
English Nature has kept in touch since 1990
with the work of ETSU in assessing the potential environmental
impacts of energy crops, particularly short-rotation coppice (SRC).
Consequently we were able to help with and endorse the "best
practice" guidelines produced under their auspices. We do
have some concerns about whether enough is known about the effects
of SRC on the environment at a landscape scale and the implications
for wildlife if it is put in the wrong place eg on wet meadows.
However, regulatory systems can take account of these concerns
and therefore in our response to the recent consultation (4) on
energy crops we considered that there could be significant conservation
gains if SRC were created on improved grassland or arable fields.
Support for regional programmes
English Nature has identified appropriate Local
Team Managers as Regional Co-ordinators and will work through
these to deliver local and national conservation objectives, for
example through woodland initiatives such as the Marches Woodland
English Nature has long had an interest in the
habitats of urban and peri-urban because of their intrinsic nature
conversation value, but also because it is important that people
have access to green spaces close to where they live. Within English
Nature there is a thriving network of staff in our local teams
who promote urban conservation directly and through our publication
Urban Wildlife News. Therefore we will work to ensure that new
woodland, both planted (as in the Community Forests) and that
which develops spontaneously on abandoned land, contributes to
the mosaic of habitats in and around towns.
Forestry and land use planning
A number of recent cases have shown that a major
cause of losses to ancient woodland is development. On non-statutory
sites our input is limited by resources and we rely on the planning
system taking account of ancient woodland. We will encourage local
authorities to develop policies for ancient woodland protection
either directly or through their inclusion in the lists of local
wildlife sites (12,13). We will also contribute to the review
of Circular 36/78 on Trees and Forestry and other planning guidance
to ensure the nature conservation benefits of woodland and forestry
English Nature has emphasised the problems of
habitat fragmentation which can be caused inter alia by
new road and rail routes. However, both in urban and rural areas,
transport corridors can also provide potential for linking up
previously isolated areas (5, 6). We all therefore work with those
planning and managing infra-structure projects to ensure that
the most is made of the potential of new woodland along such routes.
We do not condone habitat loss but, where it is inevitable, we
will encourage developers to consider the still relatively new
techniques of moving soil, plants and dead wood from areas being
lost to new sites to see if this can speed up the rate of colonisation
of new sites by woodland specialists.
Access to woodland
English Nature is keen to see how many people
having access to woodland both in general and on our own reserves
(over 2,000 ha of mainly ancient woodland). We have reviewed the
soils, flora and fauna of woods and in most sites, most of the
time there should not be a problem (7). This work, and our experience
in woodland NNRs and SSSIs, formed the basis for our guidance
on access impacts with respect to the Countryside and Rights of
Way Bill. Some of our woodland reserves are included in the National
"Walk in the Woods" programme and recently we organised
our own "Wild Day Out" when we made a special effort
to encourage people to visit local National Nature Reserves. Over
2,000 people came to Monks Wood, the vast majority of whom lived
locally but had never visited it before. Clearly we would not
want such numbers on the reserve every day of the year but it
helps to emphasise the potential interest.
Promote better understanding
The public interest generated by the Veteran
Trees Initiative (a partnership involving Countryside Agency,
English Heritage, and others that ran from 1996 until March of
this year) was also incredible and importantly covered not just
the biological aspects, but also cultural and historic aspects
of old trees (8). A series of demonstration days and workshops
were run across the country that emphasised that it was possible
to manage veteran trees to keep them safe and to maintain their
unique values. English Nature will build on this in our role as
lead for the Lowland Wood-pasture and Parkland Habitat Action
Plan. More generally our staff are heavily involved in training
courses and talks to local and national groups on all aspects
of woodland conservation.
There are concerns with respect to people and
woods, one of which is the issue of public liability, particularly
with respect to dead wood and old trees. A book on veteran tree
management has been produced with a stand-alone (free) booklet
on the safety issue (8, 9).
Protection of ancient woodland
Ancient woodland is better protected now that
it has ever been (10) but further action is still needed. Major
roles for us under this heading include the following:
Identification and designation of
woodland as sites of Special Scientific Interest SSSIs and as
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the European Habitats
and Species Directive. There are currently about 1,000 SSSIs with
woodland on them in England which cover about 80,000 ha. There
were c. 24,000 ha of woodland in England included in the original
list of SACs drawn up under the Habitats and Species Directive
regulations and further areas are being proposed under the current
Provision of advice on and support
for the management of such woods to meet our conservation objectives
for them. We have a programme for ensuring that the owner and
other interested parities are aware of the specific conservation
needs of these sites and can provide some funds for management
via management Wildlife Enhancement Schemes and Reserve Enhancement
Establishment of systems for monitoring
the condition of SSSIs in relation to our objectives and the owner's
management aims. Currently about 62 per cent are in favourable
condition or have the right management in place to restore the
effects of past neglect or mismanagement and this figure is growing.
Often improved management can be achieved by
bringing the woods into a Woodland Grant Scheme. We have therefore
instigated with the Forestry Commission a process whereby our
Site Management Statements can be integrated with the Woodland
Grant Scheme contract as part of the process of closer working
between our two organisations (11).
In key areas such as the New Forest, Borrowdale,
South Cumbrian woods we have helped establish broad partnerships
that have brought significant new funds into woodland management
through the EU LIFE programme. We aim to collaborate on further
such bids and also on HLF bids. Outside the SSSI/SAC series our
direct role in site protection is necessarily less because of
pressure on our resources (particularly staff time). We maintain
the Ancient Woodland Inventory for England which helps to identify
important sites outside formal designations and have worked with
Local Authorities and Forestry Commission to improve policy and
practice with respect to these woods (12, 13). There are about
22,000 sites on the inventory covering about 340,000 hectares
only about 14 per cent of which (by area) are within the SSSI
system. Since some further loss may be inevitable we also work
to ensure that any compensation measures proposed are of a scale
and type appropriate to the losses. The opportunities provided
by, but also the limitations of, operations such as the moving
of woodland soils from threatened to new sites need to identified.
Deer are an important part of woodland system
and grazing animals can make a significant contribution to the
biodiversity of a site. However too much grazing can be damaging
and we are concerned about the effect on both designated and non-designated
woodland of the rising number of deer in the countryside. We fully
support the Deer Initiative and provide data on conservation impacts
of deer to support its work (14).
Environmental benefits of forestry
English Nature contributes to the government's
research into environmental impacts of climate change: part of
this work involves modelling the effects of different scenarios
on selected woodland species. Other research has looked at the
potential for woodland (and other new habitats) to help link up
remnant wildlife patches in farmland, thus diversifying the countryside
We have supported through grant-aid Flora Locale's
work on promoting use of native plants and local provenance generally
which we used as part of our input to FC's consultations on local
provenance zones for trees and shrubs. On SSSIs we promote the
use of local stock in any planting schemes, although we encourage
owners to use natural regeneration as far as possible which obviates
the need for planting stock.
Biodiversity Action Plan related work
English Nature is a major player in the various
committees and groups overseeing the various woodland-related
habitat and species action plans. Much of our research and conservation
management funding is directly linked to work on these priorities.
Examples include funding to look at the needs of saproxylic invertebrates;
support for a post at the National History Museum to draw together
work from the specialist societies on lower plants; support for
FE's work on restoration of replanted ancient woodland; development
of a database for wood-pastures and parkland and for parkland
surveys in particular counties (16).
We are contributing to the woodland expansion
targets, directly for example on our reserve at Ingleborough;
indirectly through research on identifying locations for expansion
of native woods (17); and work with FC on implementation of current
and proposed challenge funds. It is perhaps helpful to note that
the most optimistic figures for rates of new planting needed to
meet the BAP targets can be achieved within the current broadleaved
A major area of work for us and the other Agencies
is establishment of the National Biodiversity Network and ensuring
that there is a framework of habitat and species monitoring linked
into this. Assessing long-term change, not just in managed but
also in unmanaged sites is a key component of this and we have
been collating examples of such work recently (18) and we will
be putting more funds into this year as part of a joint project
with DETR and FC. We are part of the Native Woodland Partnership
Group have been working with FC to develop indicative targets
and priorities for woodland expansion and restoration by Natural
The National Area profiles set our priorities
for nature conservation, but there is sometimes potential conflict
between objectives for one habitat or species against another.
We are exploring such potential tensions and how they may be resolved
through a study in the Chilterns (joint with FC, CA etc) looking
at how different areas might be allocated to (say) new beech woodland,
chalk grassland or scrub for butterflies.
While there should be no return to the false
dichotomy of forestry versus nature conservation of the 1970s
tension does exist between the BAP and other forestry objectives
over how far (and where) developing woodland and plantations should
be cleared back to restore heath, open fen, chalk grassland etc.
Discussions between FC, English Nature and various NGOs are leading
to a set of guidelines that can guide this process.
The concept of ancient woodland reflects in
part a historical/cultural approach to nature conservation. This
becomes even more important in dealing with the conservation of
parks and wood-pasture. We are actively working with sister agencies
such as English Heritage and the Countryside Agency to ensure
that both biological and cultural heritage receive equal weight
in taking forward this particularHabitat Action Plan.
Some short-term measures of success of implementation
of the England Forestry StrategyAn English Nature Perspective.
The transfer of significant parcels
eg 40 ha or more of lowland arable/improved pasture to forestry.
Reduction in the piece-meal erosion
of the ancient woodland resources.
An integrated, comprehensive and
accessible inventory of England's woodland resource.
Improvement in condition of existing
woodland and increased linkages between ancient woods.
Improvement in commercial value of
woods alongside their increasing environment and social contributions.
1. English Nature 1994. Position Statement
on Environmentally Sustainable Forestry, (reviewed 1997).
Peterborough: English Nature.
2. Entec 1999. Common agricultural policy
reform and forestry. Unpublished report to Countryside Agency,
Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature and Scottish Natural
3. Ferris, R & Purdy, K 1999. A pilot
study to examine the potential linkage between and applications
of multiple woodland data-sets: a GIS approach. Peterborough:
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC report 298).
4. English Nature 2000. The energy crops
scheme: response to MAFF consultation. Peterborough: English
5. Kirby, K J. 1995. Rebuilding English
Countryside. Peterborough: English Nature (English Nature
6. English Nature 1993. Roads and nature
conservation: guidance on impacts, mitigation and enhancement.
Peterborough: English Nature.
7. Anderson, P & Radford, E 1992.
A review of the effects of recreation on woodland soils, vegetation
and fauna. Peterborough: English Nature Research Reports,
8. Veteran Trees Initiative 2000. Veteran
Trees: a guide to good management. Peterborough: English Nature.
Other VTI products include:
Veteran Trees: a guide to grants. Peterborough:
Veteran Trees: historical and cultural aspects
a bibliography. Peterborough: English Nature (Research Report
9. Veteran Trees Initiative 2000 Veteran
trees: a guide to risk and responsibility. Peterborough: English
10. Thomas, R C Kirby, K J & Reid, C
M 1997. The conservation of a fragmented ecosystem within a cultural
landscapethe case of ancient woodland in England. Biological
Conservation 82, 243-252.
11. English Nature/Forestry Commission 1999.
Integration of English Nature SSSI site management statements
and Forestry Commission woodland grant schemes. Peterborough:
English Nature (unpublished draft procedural guidance).
12. Reid, C M 1999. Local authorities:
the protection and management of ancient woodland. Peterborough:
English Nature (Research Report 250).
13. Reid, C M 1999. Planning consultations
on ancient woodland. Peterborough: English Nature (leaflet).
14. Kikby, K J (submitted) The impact of
deer on the ground flora of British broadleaved woodland. Forestry.
15. Thomas, R C 2000. Habitat Restoration
Programme, Final Report. Peterborough: English Nature (Research
Report in press).
16. Annual review of English Nature's
Science programme. Peterborough: English Nature.
17. Thompson, J et al 1999. Creating
native woodland in upland England. Peterborough: English Nature
(Research Report 307).
18. Kirby, K J & Morecroft, M D 2000.
Long-term studies in British woodland. Peterborough: (English
Nature Science 34).