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Current Links to Other Organizations Comments on the Forestry Commission sell-off

CPRE Ministers not out of the woods yet

RSPB We’re not out of the woods yet, RSPB warns

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust: The Wildlife Trusts’ response to the Government’s proposals on the ownership and management of England’s public forest estate

Sussex Wildlife Trust: Wild Comment: Forestry Commission Sell-Off

The Woodland Trust: Forestry Commission consultation response – The Woodland Trust

Our Chairman, William Zeigler has got quotes into some papers:

Guardian Forest sell-off plans met with huge opposition

Daily Echo “Selling off the New Forest could stop it being free to use”

New Forest Association is appalled at Forestry Commission sell off plans

PRESS RELEASE:
The New Forest Association has hit out at Government plans to sell off the ‘crown jewels’ of the New Forest, labelling the plans “appalling”. The charity has also warned that the plans, published today (January 27), could lead to people being charged to use the New Forest.

“Plans to find a charity to run the New Forest show a complete lack of understanding of how the forest works,” said New Forest Association Chairman William Ziegler. “In the 64 page Government consultation document1 there is no reference to the commoning system, which has created and maintained the forest for all to appreciate.

“This new threat is the most serious attack on the New Forest for 160 years. Any charity that takes on owning and managing the New Forest will be required to find its own funding after initial government help to offset the £2.9m annual deficit. This could mean charging the public for access to the New Forest and will almost certainly involve selling off parts of the estate which currently provide the cornerstone of commoning.”

Mr Ziegler said the existing system of management, involving the various but interlocking interests of commoning, conservation, timber production and recreation, would be lost alongside the expertise that the Forestry Commission has gained over many decades.

“The Forestry Commission’s staff, and in particular the keepers, have huge local and specialist knowledge of the wildlife which should not be swept away at the stroke of a Whitehall pen,” he said.

“We are shocked by the proposals – the Government must be left in doubt as to the real value of the New Forest and we commend everyone that cares about the area to let their thoughts be known to DEFRA.”

The New Forest Association, formed in 1867, is a charitable organisation which has over 140 years of experience in working to preserve, conserve and protect the New Forest. It was formed at a time when Government measures threatened to sell off the New Forest in the middle of the 19th century.

The Association is dedicated to the preservation, conservation and protection of the New Forest and is a membership based organization. Further information can be found at www.newforestassociation.org.

(DEFRA’s press release: http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/01/27/englands-forests/)

The New Forest could be overgrown within two years

PRESS RELEASE:
The New Forest Association (NFA) believes that the Crown Lands of the New Forest deserves the best management expertise the Government can offer. The delicate balance between commoning, conservation, recreation and commercial forestry is easily disturbed.

We do not believe that a private operator managing these state owned lands would be able to offer sufficient safeguards for the future sustainability of the New Forest. We are not only facing economic recession but also coming to terms with the impact of climate change upon the unique habitats. It is vital that whatever management expertise has been gained over the years and decades is retained for the benefit of the New Forest and the nation.

Loss of the commoners housing stock retained by the Forest Commission could result in major parts of the Forest becoming overgrown and inaccessible to the millions of visitors who come from all over the world.

There are many precedents for the New Forest being made a special case and we believe that this should happen now by allowing the status quo to continue thereby ensure the future viability and health of these internationally important lands.

To this end we would ask those wielding the axe to not take precipitive action, but to take advice and think long and hard before making any decision which could have appalling long term effects on this special place which is so close to the hearts of millions of their constituents

William Ziegler

Chairman

New Forest Association

Notes

The New Forest Association was formed in 1867 to ensure that the Forest was not enclosed and lost to the nation. The resulting New Forest Act of 1877 was the first of a number of occasions when the New Forest had to receive special treatment to survive – Further information about the Association may be found at www.newforestassociation.org

In the light of recent press speculation about a sell off of 50% of Forestry Commission managed lands there needs to be good reason for retaining areas of national and international importance such as the New Forest. This Forest is the last major link with the Royal Forests of William the Conqueror, who introduced special laws to enable its survival as a hunting forest. Changing administrations in the 16th and 19th centuries caused huge unrest because of the upset to the balance between the various forces acting upon the lands. The key to the diversity and unique habits that form the New Forest is the grazing regime and mixture of bogs, woodlands and lowland heath that has evolved for the ponies and cattle to roam over. These animals are owned by commoners whose rights have been jealously protected since before the Norman invasion.

Virtually all commoners are part time small-holders who need to live in close proximity to the Forest with access to a small amount of back-up land. The Forestry Commission has a housing stock in the New Forest some of which is let to commoners and some used by their own officials, a number of whom graze stock themselves.

The New Forest Association (NFA)

The NFA, established in 1867, is one of the oldest conservation organisations in the world. It is an independent charity with over 900 members. Council for National Parks recognises NFA as the New Forest National Park society.

New Forest Association Takes Forestry Commission to Task

In today’s September Verderers Court, the NFA took the Forestry Commission to task for ongoing damage to the fabric of the forest and dangerously unsafe debris resulting from timber extraction operations at Islands Thorns enclosure. The NFA called for more sensitive management of the operations, particularly as a very nice job has been done by a different team nearby in the stream restoration at Howen Bottom (more info on stream restoration : Lengthening River Beds) Timber operations in character woodlands on the open forest on the SSSI should be managed to the same standards as other environmental works.

The NFA also asked for further scrutiny of the Forestry Commission’s trial of a new basalt grit based hoggin material as a car park surface at Longslade Bottom, Pig Bush, Turf Hill amongst others. This is part of an ongoing search for more sustainable materials for car park maintenance. Difficulties arise in the current gravel based hoggin which is easily disrupted, but any new material needs to pass muster with Natural England as it can leech into the sensitive soil of the forest and may also impact the wetlands. The NFA are concerned that the basalt may not be as inert as suggested by the Forestry Commission, also the basalt is a darker colour closer to that of tarmac and may negatively impact on the landscape. (see Gritty solution to potholes)

The NFA also commented on the Forestry Commission’s somewhat cynical “consultation” on its plans for the future of the Public Forest Estate in England. The plans include a National plan for fast conifer timber production which would be wholly inappropriate for the New Forest. The Forestry Commission are clearly looking for a mandate nationally, such policies would not work for the New Forest, and would create further unwelcome pressure to our local forestry. The NFA urged the Verderers and all members of the public to respond to the survey with this in mind.

Finally, the NFA joined the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, amongst others, in commenting on the proposed extension to Burley Cricket Club’s pavilion. The NFA asked the Verderers to ensure that any extension to existing facilities should be the minimum size needed to maintain the viability of the cricket club and no larger.

(For the full text of this month’s Presentment look at the first comment below, or click here).

Forestry Commission Launch Public Forest Estate Consultation

The Forestry Commission of England have launched a consultation on “The Long-term Role of the Forestry Commission Public Forest Estate in England“. This “consultation” takes the form of a 76 page document followed by a survey, much of which includes somewhat loaded questions, and even more slanted multiple choice selections.

In a slightly cynical move, a shorter version of the survey has been issued as a leaflet consisting of one of the questions with multiple choice answers. This can be filled in and sent freepost to the Forestry Commission. Those responding to this oversimplified version are being entered into a prize draw as an incentive.

Whilst the council of The New Forest Association are issuing a joint response to the consultation, they urge the members of the Association to respond to the consultation, keeping in mind that for the New Forest area, the preservation of the nature and heritage of the native broadleaved woodlands and heathland habitats should have greater priority over conifer timber production.

The consultation closes on 28th September 2009.