A briefing document has been published by the Our Forests ginger group, setting the record straight about ancient woodlands in England.
During the public outcry over the Government’s declared proposals to dispose of the public woods and forests managed by the Forestry Commission in England, particular concerns were raised about sites classed as Ancient Woodland; both those areas most closely meeting that definition and also the larger area in process of, or awaiting restoration. Some commentators raised concerns about the risks to these if sold on or managed by others than the Forestry Commission. It was also implied that the Forestry Commission was ‘failing’ in its stated intention and duty to restore the larger body of Ancient Woodland damaged through earlier plantings, especially with conifers.
Our Forests believe that it may be helpful to ascertain the facts about the state of Ancient Woodland under the Forestry Commission’s current management, and to put these facts into the public domain to contribute to the ongoing debate about the future of England’s public woods and forests.
- The Forestry Commission was the first state forest service in the world to achieve the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) sustainability mark across all the public woods and forests it manages – in recognition of which WWF gave it a ‘Gift to the Earth’ award in 2001.
- Only 16% of woodlands outside of the public forest estate (PFE) are managed to FSC standards.
- The total area of woodland in England classed as Ancient Woodland is estimated at 220,000 hectares – of which the Forestry Commission manages 49,470 hectares. That places around 22% of all Ancient Woodland in England within the PFE and under the Forestry Commission’s management. So the majority of Ancient Woodland lies outside the PFE and is owned and managed by private individuals, institutions, conservation groups and local authorities.
- Of the 49,470 ha of Ancient Woodland on the FC PFE in England, over 33,000 ha of Ancient Woodland have been or are in the process of being restored from Plantation Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) to native woodland.