Making sure we have a healthy and resilient New Forest is about much, much more than trees.
It also means we must work hard to look after the wider nature and critical habitats at a landscape-scale.
The New Forest is a very special place. Here we have a unique landscape and mixture of habitats that are simply not found anywhere else on this scale. An incredible 75% of lowland heathland left in North Western Europe are right here in this one small corner of the UK.
These open areas of the forest often look bare and on first glance it’s hard to appreciate their value. In fact, heaths provide habitats relied upon by some of our most endangered wildlife now lost from many other parts of the country. These include reptiles like the endangered smooth snake, beautiful insects such as the southern damselfly, and rare birds including the curlew and nightjar. If we don’t protect these heathland areas too we will not only lose these remnant habitats from our landscapes but also the nature they support.
We hear a lot about how the loss of species and habitats in other places around the globe is having a potentially devastating effect on the environment. The same risks apply to our local woodlands and forests. Once their species are lost it is very hard if not impossible to return them.
Over many decades some of these open habitats have been planted with non-native conifer trees to provide timber for the nation. In some areas we are now removing the conifer trees and returning it back to the former open habitat, or native woodland so that can be grazed by Commoners’ livestock.
It’s important for us to readdress the balance by slowly restoring more native species over hundreds of years and create more open habitats, such as heathlands, to ensure we have a rich mix of wildlife and biodiversity, in line with the latest Forest Plan for the Inclosures.