Our Chairman Peter Roberts has written a letter to the Lymington Times in rebuttal. The full text of which is included below:
9th August 2011
It is good to see that Anthony Pasmore has taken up the challenge to open a debate on the New Forest Association's views to the Forestry Panel (NF Notes 6th August). Whilst the headline of our Press Release captured the attention of the media it is the detail of what we are actually looking for that is important.
The aims of the Association are simple:- to protect, conserve and enhance the unique mix of flora, fauna and heritage that make up the New Forest, for present and future generations to enjoy. Clearly over a long history (we are more than fifty years older than the Forestry Commission) we have had many dealings with management policy. Our response to the Independent Panel on Forestry recognises the good work done by excellent staff of the Forestry Commission. Our aim is to obtain the best possible management for this unique area, we are far more interested in how the Forest is managed than who manages it.
Five years ago we published The New Forest Design Plan - Recovering Lost Landscapes to influence management thinking and correct some of the damage done by inappropriate planting. Inappropriate because softwood species are not native and can be grown more successfully elsewhere and inappropriate because of the loss of part of the largest lowland heathland in Europe - an internationally recognised and protected area. Few people now remember the damage done by conversion of many of the old inclosures from broad-leaved trees to conifer from the instigation of the Forestry Commission in 1924 until the outcry of 1970. Your columnist should remember, for he, alongside David Stagg and John Lavender, produced an excellent survey of the hardwoods at that time on behalf of the New Forest Association.
We have linked our response to the work of Sir John Lawton, whose committee produced a report Making Space for Nature last autumn. This fundamental rethink on how we can best use land for nature conservation (not for its own sake alone but because our own future is closely linked with wildlife) is an opportunity to seize.
As for Anthony's concerns for the New Forest Acts none know their value better than the New Forest Association for our founding fathers' decade of work led to the 1877 Act. We explicitly quote the New Forest Acts in our response stating that they and the Verderers activities should continue 'regardless of who in future is responsible for managing the New Forest.'
Anthony's comments on current ownership explain why we used the phrasing we did. Our submission talks of the Crown Estate of the New Forest to remind the Forestry Panel that it consists not just of the lands open to the public but also vital back-up grazing as well as considerable housing stock. The latter has provided a core of commoners housing for a considerable time to the benefit of the New Forest. We believe it is essential that all this should remain as a unit and not be sold off.
Our views to the Forestry Panel stated that the New Forest should be treated as a special case. We also believe in a balance between conservation, recreation and a working environment and that this view is shared by other bodies including the Commoners Defence Association and the National Park Authority. Removing national forestry policy from the Forestry Commission in the New Forest may provide the best possible way forward for management of this unique area. Whatever system of management is put in place it will need to take account of nature designations and public access as well as commoners usage for the benefit of the nation. It seems likely that this balance will only be achieved at a considerable cost to the public purse.
Our full submission may be found at newforestassociation.org
Chairman, New Forest Association
Note: the version published in the Lymington Times, may have been edited for space or content.