Whilst we’re still formulating our detailed response to the Future Forest draft actions survey 2018, we’re sharing these preliminary thoughts. These observations will make more sense if you read the proposals. You may read the full text of the proposals without engaging in the survey with this Adobe Reader pdf version: Future Forest draft actions.
Here is a more admittedly impressionistic summary of our thoughts about the Recreation Management Strategy proposals in question:
Much of it lacks detail and substance.
It makes no reference to the National Park purposes or the Sandford principle enshrined in legislation, obliging the park to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and dictating that irreconcilable conflicts with public enjoyment should favour conservation.
It drops useful proposals from the existing strategy, including at least one legal obligation to fulfil the SAC management plan.
Much is poorly written. Not in plain English.
All of the “Actions” have “Examples of possible delivery” which are often accompanied by a list of problems presumptively resolved by the action. (When one of the more glaring examples of this style disconnect was spotted by a helpful member of the Park Authority at the meeting that OK’ed the draft, the word “Reduce” was plonked at the front of the list. See below.)
With absolutely no sense of irony, or understanding of the concept of recursion, one of the proposed actions is “Through working groups with appropriate terms of reference or other joint initiatives involving local organisations and user groups, identify and implement the most effective and long lasting strategies to address significant and widespread negative impacts caused by recreation.” I thought that was what we were developing here. Under “Examples of Possible delivery”: “Reduce disturbance of wildlife, feeding of animals, animal accidents, litter, verge parking, fungi picking and negative impacts of dog walking, cycling and horse riding” a list of desired outcomes, which, as if by magic results from the here-to-for unglimpsed illusive strategies that this strategy plans to seek out.
“In support of other techniques, use appropriate and proportionate enforcement activities to deter illegal recreation-related activities.” Could be said in two words in two ways either “Stop crime” or “Enforce law”. If anyone has a clue what “other techniques” is euphemistically…..?
It frequently supposes that the Forest is obliged to provide a venue for recreation, rather than a place where managed recreation is appropriate. It does suggest, conversely, that there should be “shared responsibility” for recreation impacts and protection of the Forest.
There is slight mention of influencing neighbouring authorities for developer mitigation, but not on quelling overdevelopment that increases local populations regularly using the Forest. The ambition to create neighbouring country parks as alternative recreation sites is mooted, but not stated as a specific goal for survey respondents to support.
The surveys, by their own admission, employ no attempt to get “a balanced and representative sample”, have been poorly interpreted (including the claim that one proposal had “wide public support” despite positive comment from only 22% of respondents), and so make them a nearly meaningless time-wasting exercise.
The new survey only asks for feedback on a sliding scale of agree/disagree on vaguely stated proposed actions. No consultation is made for the stated Objectives or for the Draft Criteria for Judging Recreation Facilities (published on the Park Authority website but not included in the survey).
These “actions” may form the basis for future useful proposals for action from the partner organizations, but we cannot judge it on this assumption as there is no onus put on these organizations to deliver these specific outcomes.
On the upside it does acknowledge the importance of education, spatial strategies, data and evidence.
There is a good mention for increasing the number of “on the ground” staff to influence and educate recreation behaviour, we’d be more heartened if some aspects of enforcement were added to this ambassadorial role.
It also tries to address funding issues and floats the notion that Forest users may be charged for some facilities, possibly parking, as a means of funding both upkeep and relevant initiatives to protect the Forest.
Overall: Good ideas dragged down by blather and vagueness, amounting to a statement of guiding principles, but not a Strategy.
A Strategy should be a Plan with specific actions.
This is not a palpable improvement over the existing Strategy, and in some respects an abrogation of responsibility to deliver the actions of that Strategy, which was subjected to a lengthy and thorough public consultation, including the partner organizations, which are obliged to assist the Park in delivering its purposes.
This wheel spinning exercise has merely deflected from any continued implementation, although it has helped highlight how sorely we need to manage recreation in a proactive, robust, brave fashion.
|This is part of our ongoing evaluation of the RMS Proposals, and may be subject to amendment, updates, and further consideration. In particular this is not how we are expressing our opinion n the official response, but a quick snapshot of our thoughts for our members, readers and followers.|