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NFA Fungi Campaign 2015-16

With the upcoming NFA AGM this Saturday, we look back at some of this past years works. Here is an amended excerpt from our Habitat and Landscape Committee’s Annual Report

After years of increasing damage from commercial pickers, and more than two Autumns passing with much talk, but no subsequent action from the Forestry Commission and National Park Authority, the NFA Council took the lead and tasked our committee to develop the NFA’s policy and campaign to protect fungi from foragers.

At both the Verderers Court and National Park Authority meetings in July 2015 we called for the Forestry Commission to impose a ban on fungi harvest on the Crown Lands of the New Forest, the Site of Special Scientific Interest under their stewardship. This is in keeping with existing bans in Epping Forest and at many of the Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Reserves. A blanket ban will assist enforcement by removing the need to prove commercial intent and weigh amounts against the arbitrary allowance. With discretion Keepers could target those who are over harvesting, whether for personal or commercial use.

The National Trust imposed the ban on the Northern Commons that they manage within the Forest. The Forestry Commission stopped short of the ban, but did engage in a series of disruption events targeting commercial foragers, some harvests were seized and destroyed. We believe the FC missed a trick by not moving forward with prosecutions which should further deter commercial criminals. Foraging fungi for any commercial purpose is seen as theft in the Theft Act 1964. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if they have taken any rare protected species they face summary conviction for 6 months + £5k fine, or if Natural England determine that a group of pickers have engaged in potentially damaging operations on SSSI, fines of up to £20k may be levied.

The ban would also be in keeping with guidelines the FC itself subscribed to in 1998, the Wild Mushroom Pickers Code of Conduct published by English Nature, which says culinary foraging is inappropriate on SSSI and National Nature Reserves. That code is also the source of the supposed 1.5kg limit (which has no basis in law) which there is suggested “per foray” for culinary harvest, but which the FC have erroneously repeated as “per person / per day”, ignoring the code’s SSSI prohibition. The NFA have asked that all FC leaflets and posters compounding this error be withdrawn until a revised code is established.

The Forestry Commission’s latest The New Forest Essential Guide for 2016 has this more helpful message:

“Fungi: The New Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest with over two thousand varieties of fungi, many of which are rare and internationally-important species. We appeal to people to look, but don’t pick. Commercial harvesting is not permitted and foray leaders must obtain a licence. We’re reviewing the guidelines on picking for personal consumption. New restrictions will be trialled to lessen the impacts on this very special habitat, visit or call 0300 067 4601 for the latest details.”

However, the website referenced above has yet to be updated and carries the unreviewed guidelines and leaflets. This includes the 1.5kg “personal limit” and noisome parenthetical congratulations to those treating it as a goal rather than a limit: ” (and if you’ve found this much you’ve done well!) “. This hardly gibes with the more welcome “look, but don’t pick”. Baby steps? Perhaps.

The NFA have continued to press for a new code of conduct, and with the full support of the members of the National Park Authority will be included in the stakeholders tasked with its development. We have stressed that a plan needs to be in place by the New Forest Show 2016 to have coordinated messages and actions for this Autumn. We will also campaign for improved protection when Wildlife laws are next revised (the Law Commission has published a draft, we do not know when it will be brought forward).

The display of fungi in the New Forest is as essential a part of the experience of Autumn in this protected habitat as the pannage pigs, and should remain for all to see and enjoy.

— excerpted with updates from the NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee Annual report, by Committee Chair, Brian Tarnoff, with permission.

New Chief Executive for the National Park.

At today’s New Forest National Park Authority meeting, the new Chief Executive, Alison Barnes, was announced to the authority members by the current interim Chief Executive, Barrie Foley. “We have finally found someone who I believe is good for the Forest, she is very outward looking and is keen to engage with all parties.”

Clive Chatters, Chair of the NFNPA, said: “I am delighted to welcome Alison as our new Chief Executive. She brings an ideal combination of professional and personal qualities to take us forward.”

Alison is currently a Natural England Regional Director for London as the organisational lead on Landscape, Green Infrastructure, the Olympics and Thames Gateway. She is Chair of Greening the Gateway Partnership and a Commissioner for the Mayor’s London Sustainable Development Commission. Her career has also included roles with English Nature, Dumfries and Galloway Council and the RSPB in Scotland. She was born and bred near Wimborne, and still has family in Wimborne, Christchurch and Hangersley.

Barrie Foley, describing her qualifications for the role focussed on her ability to engage businesses and stakeholders on green infrastructure issues in complex situations:

“Coming from Natural England, of course she’s got the Green credentials, but when she went through the interview process a lot of it was focussed on “is she right for the business going forward, is she right for the community”, …. I thought she was right, as far as I’m concerned, engaging with the people, engaging with the communities, that’s what’s the key thing. Alison has not come from an easy environment, working in the area she works in London.

Fielding a Press question about whether her approach would be right for local business, Alison remarked:

“I absolutely believe that conservation and nature cannot be successful, in this day and age, at all, without bringing everything together with socio-economic issues. To some extent, that’s why those issues come forward, because we haven’t been successful in the past. And for me, it is only going to be successful, if those things can come together, because this isn’t a museum, this is a living working place.

Alison will assume her role from June 1st. Barrie Foley will be on hand to assist her during a month long hand over period.

National Park Management Plan Revised Draft

The National Park Management Plan Revised Draft is available for public feedback from 22 October to 12 November 2009. A downloadable version of the Plan as well as details on how to respond are available via this link:

National Park Management Plan Revised Draft

The current draft will be considered by the members of the New Forest National Park Authority at the authority meeting on the 29th of October 2009, at South Efford House. The members will be asked to approve the revised version of the draft at the subsequent authority meeting on the 10th of December 2009.

The revised Core Strategy will be available on the National Park website from 3 December 2009 and public representations will be invited in January 2010.

New Forest National Park Chief Executive To Step Down

At the June meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority, Lindsay Cornish the Chief Executive Officer of the NFNPA has announced her resignation.

In her statement she remarked:

“Over the last four years I have dedicated myself to the development of an organisation which I hope will continue to champion the New Forest long after I have gone.”

Clive Chatters, Chairman of the NFNPA followed up with praise for Lindsay’s achievements including setting up the Authority as “a stable, well run organisation” and her help in securing the Single Farm Payment for the whole of the Forest on behalf of the commoners, as well as getting the planning service up and running for “day one” of the authority.

The NFA are saddened by the nature of her departure, and feel it is particularly unfortunate that her achievements should be overshadowed by recent events.

[Read the full text of the Chief Executive’s Statement here and the Chairman’s Statement here]

Statement by Lindsay Cornish Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority

After deep reflection and discussion with the Chairman it is with considerable sadness that I have decided to leave the Authority.

Over the last four years I have dedicated myself to the development of an organisation which I hope will continue to champion the New Forest long after I have gone. My staff are passionate about the New Forest and its future, dedicated and highly professional and have already achieved much, for example in support the work and role of commoners and in securing significant amounts of external funding to assist local community projects.

As those who are close to me know, it has always been my intention to pass the baton on to a fresh pair of hands once the Authority is fully established. I had hoped that this would coincide with the completion of the first national park management plan, originally scheduled for earlier this year. Now that the Plan has been further delayed, and I would shortly have completed four years in post I have reviewed my position. I also believe that the recent perception of me and my role by some sections of the public, ill-informed and libellous as some of it is, may be damaging the reputation of the entire Authority.

For these, and other personal reasons, I will therefore be leaving the Authority at the end of the month.

I would like to give particular thanks to : the two Chairmen I have worked with and who have given me invaluable support and encouragement; to my staff for the excellent work they do; and to a number of colleagues from key Forest organisations who have been willing to work constructively with the Authority, and to support me personally, notwithstanding our sometimes fundamentally different starting points, to achieve what is best for the Forest.

I will not be making any other statements and would ask for privacy while I remain in post and thereafter.

Statement by Clive Chatters, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority

Members, setting up a new National Park Authority is a challenge. This is the first time it has been done for over fifty years.

Over the last four years Lindsay has taken us through that process to establish a stable, well run organisation. Throughout her time with us Lindsay has shown great commitment and dedication to the New Forest, the National Park and the Authority.

Not only has the establishment of the organisation been a significant achievement in its own right but there is much by way of other successes to celebrate and I have selected two items to comment on.

For many years many organisations have sought to provide support for the Forest’s commoning economy. This has proved very difficult as our circumstances here do not comfortably fit into the national picture. Lindsay’s knowledge of how Defra works was fundamental in securing the Single Farm Payment for the whole of the open Forest to the considerable financial benefit of all practising Commoners.

Similarly the establishment of the planning service for the national park was a hugely complex process fraught with risk. If the service was not ready to run on ‘day one’ we could not have continued to provide a timely and proper service to local people seeking planning permission. As one member commented at the time, the achievement was nothing short of miraculous.

Members, I have known for some time about Lindsay’s views on the need to hand over to a successor at the right time and I understand and respect her reasoning on this. It saddens me that some parties have more recently chosen to make personal and offensive comments about her. Such nasty behaviour falls outside what I regard as common decency; I will deal with that matter separately.

I am sure that all members will join me in thanking Lindsay for her singular contribution to the creation and achievements of the National Park Authority and in wishing Lindsay well for the future

New Forest National Park Joins Ancient Tree Hunt

The New Forest National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission are adding their resources to bring the New Forest into the Ancient Tree Hunt project. The goal of the Ancient Tree Hunt is to map our heritage of trees. The project began in 2004 as a joint partnership between the Ancient Trees Forum and the Tree Register of the British Isles. Now with the Woodland Trust on board, and some Heritage Lottery Fund money, the project is spreading throughout the UK.

Volunteers armed with GPS locators and measuring tape will be helping to survey trees in the New Forest. Forester Harry Oram will be training the first set of volunteers at Queen’s House in mid-May.

The NFA looks forward to the results of the survey. It will be a great boon to have the wonderful trees of our Ancient and Ornamental woodlands recorded for future research and preservation.

More info:

Conservation Areas Reviewed for Fritham and Burley

In today’s New Forest National Park Authority meeting, the Authority designated revised boundaries for the existing Fritham and Burley Conservation Areas. The most significant change was the addition of Eyeworth to the Fritham Conservation Area.

The New Forest Association supports these changes which will help preserve the character of these areas in the heart of the New Forest.