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Old Saturday 31st May 2008, 19:05   #1
Bill Payer
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I despair of the Forestry Commission

The Forestry Commission (or its current incarnation) has been conducting a felling programme in Hale Wood, south east of Wendover, Buckinghamshire, during May!

I was not aware of this until a few days ago when a farming friend in the locality mentioned it. I understand that Larch were being felled, so I suppose they were unlikely to have had nests in them, but the disturbance has been enormous.

I hadn't been past the site for some while, but a quick view yesterday (30/5) would suggest that they have finished work.
My source tells me that the established pair of Buzzards hasn't been seen for some while.

Has nobody in that outfit even an ounce of common sense?
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Old Saturday 31st May 2008, 19:58   #2
NickPatel92
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Isn't this area meant to be good for the Woodland Butterflies as well?
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Old Monday 2nd June 2008, 16:48   #3
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Nick........

I'm not aware of the area being noted for its butterflies.

I've only ever seen the likes of Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Holly Blue, Small Comma, etc.

I'm fairly observant (others may disagree!), so would probably have noticed anything out of the ordinary and then referred to the book on returning home.

Sorry I haven't replied earlier. Had a devil of a job getting on to the site over the weekend.
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Old Tuesday 3rd June 2008, 14:35   #4
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As far as I'm aware, this felling has been postponed, or at least vastly reduced.

You're quite right though, a felling programme was pencilled in for this spring, which defies belief. However, the anger-fuelled intervention of a few local birders, and a few phone calls to the relevant people, put a stop to this.

I think the felling programme will still take place, but at a later date in the year.

There's a bitter irony in the fact that the higher levels of conservation organisations often seem to be staffed with people who's knowledge of wildlife is heavily outweighed by their knowledge of an accounts ledger.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 17:13   #5
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I'm sorry to be the bearing of bad tidings Bob, but the felling programme went ahead. I recall seeing notices publicising it last year but nothing happened which squares with your report.

I wasn't aware of it being carried out until fairly well on in the proceedings - probably as it was almost finished.

I contacted the Bucks Herald and there is an article in today's edition about events up there. I don't think the item is available online, but there is the usual load of PR guff from the FC.

I'll reproduce the last couple of lines here:

"We take particular care to look for wildlife that has special protection and we will either suspend or alter operations to make sure this wildlife is protected".

"Inevitably some work may have to take place while birds are breeding and nesting".



I despair.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 18:54   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Payer View Post
"We take particular care to look for wildlife that has special protection and we will either suspend or alter operations to make sure this wildlife is protected".
"Inevitably some work may have to take place while birds are breeding and nesting".
Does this mean that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 that, in particular, includes :-
"The Act makes it an offence (with exception to species listed in Schedule 2) to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird or their eggs or nests. Special penalties are available for offences related to birds listed on Schedule 1, for which there are additional offences of disturbing these birds at their nests, or their dependent young. The Secretary of State may also designate Areas of Special Protection (subject to exceptions) to provide further protection to birds."
is to be ignored by those who care to do so?

Roger
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 20:05   #7
Jos Stratford
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Payer View Post
from the FC.

"We take particular care to look for wildlife that has special protection and we will either suspend or alter operations to make sure this wildlife is protected".

"Inevitably some work may have to take place while birds are breeding and nesting".



I despair.
Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerscoth View Post
Does this mean that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 that, in particular, includes :-
"The Act makes it an offence (with exception to species listed in Schedule 2) to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird or their eggs or nests. Special penalties are available for offences related to birds listed on Schedule 1, for which there are additional offences of disturbing these birds at their nests, or their dependent young. The Secretary of State may also designate Areas of Special Protection (subject to exceptions) to provide further protection to birds."
is to be ignored by those who care to do so?

Roger

Unless they had found, or had been told about, a nesting bird, then I don't think technically they can be said to be intentionally destroying nests. I don't think it is enough to say there must have been birds in the area, even if we believe there had been.

The opening sentence in this thread also stated Larch were being felled, so I suppose they were unlikely to have had nests in them, so maybe the FC also assessed the chances of destroying nests low.


Work may have to take place while birds are breeding and nesting
(FC quote) is not the same as them saying they may have to destroy nests.


Clearfell also likely to be better for butterflies than larch plantation.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 20:08   #8
Bill Payer
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Quote:
Does this mean that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981............. is to be ignored by those who care to do so?
Prima Facie, the Forestry Commission appear to take that view.

Thanks for quoting the legislation, Roger. I'm grateful to you.


Edit: Composed before, but posted after Jos Stratford's post. (Hope that makes sense!)

Last edited by Bill Payer : Wednesday 4th June 2008 at 20:10.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 20:27   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerscoth View Post
Does this mean that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is to be ignored by those who care to do so?

Roger
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Payer View Post
Prima Facie, the Forestry Commission appear to take that view.

Thanks for quoting the legislation, Roger. I'm grateful to you.

Just to recap, for the Forestry Commission to be violating this Act, then I believe it has to be shown they intentionally destroyed nests in use. If you believed the larch plantation didn't contain nests, is it not reasonable to believe they had similar ideas?
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 20:46   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Payer View Post
The Forestry Commission (or its current incarnation) has been conducting a felling programme in Hale Wood, south east of Wendover, Buckinghamshire, during May!

I was not aware of this until a few days ago when a farming friend in the locality mentioned it. I understand that Larch were being felled, so I suppose they were unlikely to have had nests in them, but the disturbance has been enormous.

I hadn't been past the site for some while, but a quick view yesterday (30/5) would suggest that they have finished work.
My source tells me that the established pair of Buzzards hasn't been seen for some while.

Has nobody in that outfit even an ounce of common sense?
I don't know about this particular woodland, but I do know a lot about how the Forestry Commission plans and manages its operations. Felling operations are planned well in advance, and part of the process involves a conservation check. This includes both a paper check (ususally GIS-based these days), to check for records of species, but also a detailed check of the site by a wildlife ranger to look for nests, bat roosts, squirrel dreys, rare flora, butterfly habitat etc. If anything of particular interest, such as raptor nests, are found, plans could be altered to leave these trees standing, or the timing of the felling could be changed.

This doesn't mean that nothing ever goes wrong, or that nests of species with less protection never get destroyed, but there is no "reckless" destruction of nest sites. The Forestry Commission does not have the option of halting wood production during the entire nesting season - we all use wood and wood products and the wood-using industries run a year-round production system. As with other land management activities, the best we can hope for a reasonable balance of risks and benefits, and we must make sure that operational decisions are made using the best quality information.

And yes, there are plenty of people within the Forestry Commission with more than an ounce of common sense, including some very dedicated professional conservationists.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 21:56   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jos Stratford View Post
Just to recap, for the Forestry Commission to be violating this Act, then I believe it has to be shown they intentionally destroyed nests in use. If you believed the larch plantation didn't contain nests, is it not reasonable to believe they had similar ideas?
Let's not skirt sensitively round the issue (there's no need to) - the species involved is Firecrest, and Wendover Woods is a well-known breeding site for them.

I know the site, but not particularly intimately. I do know where the Firecrests are, as do most other local birders. Therefore the FC will too. I imagine it's virtually impossible to locate individual nests, but it is very easy to locate the general stands of trees, and thus avoid felling them.

I guess it's possible that the FC's felling programme accounted for trees in the general area, but not the Firecrest trees. If any Firecrest nests were destroyed in this process, then technically, I presume the FC have not broken the law, not having been aware of the nests.

Of course, there are other birds nesting there too, but we're back to that technicality - actually being aware of specific nests.

BTW Apodemus, for those who don't know (i.e, me!), do you know why the FC are committed to year-round felling? Does it cost too much to suspend operations between April-August, say? Can harvesting not be increased in the winter, and surplus stock set aside for when demand dictates?
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 22:08   #12
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I've just looked back at some of my e-mails from a month ago, and the contact given by the FC for the Wendover logging actually spoke to one local birder, and informed him that the original logging plan (which would indeed have disturbed breeding Firecrests) was now not to proceed.

However, an alternative programme at a nearby site was to proceed instead. Bill, it may have been the results of this felling that you saw.

I'll see what I can find out over the next couple of days.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 22:15   #13
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Just to recap, for the Forestry Commission to be violating this Act, then I believe it has to be shown they intentionally destroyed nests in use. If you believed the larch plantation didn't contain nests, is it not reasonable to believe they had similar ideas?
A fair point Jos, but I did go on to say that:

Quote:
..........the disturbance has been enormous.
I've little doubt that the effects of the operation spread far beyond the boundaries of the felling site. The local Buzzards haven't been seen for the last couple of weeks and deer have been displaced on to adjacent farmland.

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Old Wednesday 4th June 2008, 23:09   #14
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I guess it's possible that the FC's felling programme accounted for trees in the general area, but not the Firecrest trees. If any Firecrest nests were destroyed in this process, then technically, I presume the FC have not broken the law, not having been aware of the nests.
Of course, there are other birds nesting there too, but we're back to that technicality - actually being aware of specific nests.
This, again, shows that the law is an ass! With many other laws, e.g. motoring laws, ignorance of not knowingly broken a law is no defence, but wildlife and some other laws seem to have a lot of grey areas.

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Old Thursday 5th June 2008, 01:03   #15
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BTW Apodemus, for those who don't know (i.e, me!), do you know why the FC are committed to year-round felling? Does it cost too much to suspend operations between April-August, say? Can harvesting not be increased in the winter, and surplus stock set aside for when demand dictates?
OK, I'll have a go!
To some extent that does happen. Stock-piling isn't very practical for a few reasons, however. Firstly, timber dries out and degrades quite soon after it has been felled. If it has been left lying around it reduces its value as sawlogs (which is the valuable part of the tree) and often makes it unsaleable.
Secondly, its a question of storage. Sawmills, fibreboard mills, pulp mills etc do have huge yards full of timber, but the amounts that they go through are mind-bogglingly enormous. It would be physically impossible to store four months worth of supply, even without the problem of degrade.
Thirdly, there is the question of harvesting capacity. It's already often hard to find contractors to fell coupes at the ideal time of year. Losing one third of the year would not only concentrate all your production into too short a timescale, but it would leave the contractors (who often have hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in machinery) out of work for 4 months, with no income. They couldn't and wouldn't survive that. The same is true of haulage contractors - they couldn't do the work in two thirds of a year, and would go out of business.

Fourth - some sites are too wet to work in the winter months. Felling at this time could cause big problems with soil loss, habitat destruction and siltation of watercourses so these have to done when the ground conditions allow. It's not true of all sites, but its another factor to take into consideration.

So - yes, it does partly come down to economics, but not in the sense of "making a fast buck" or even maximising returns. The wood-using industries, which we all rely on, do need a year round supply of timber, which sometimes makes for complicated management decisions on the part of the conservation forester and his/her harvesting colleagues. It's important to remember in all this, of course, that timber grown in countries like Britain is produced in a vastly more sustainable way than timber being ripped out of virgin tropical forests.

Long answer, I know, but I hope it helps. Just to restate, in case anyone hasn't read the thread fully, I can't comment specifically on the Wendover woods because I don't know them - I am only trying to shed light on the general point about how the FC carries out its work.

Mike

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Old Thursday 5th June 2008, 11:03   #16
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OK, I'll have a go!

Long answer, I know, but I hope it helps. Just to restate, in case anyone hasn't read the thread fully, I can't comment specifically on the Wendover woods because I don't know them - I am only trying to shed light on the general point about how the FC carries out its work.

Mike
Thanks Mike, long answer is fine! I can't really have a pop at the FC if I don't know how they work.

Whilst birders/conservationists would prefer any kind of disturbance to be kept to a minimum, and quite rightly get angry at situations such as Wendover, it is, as always, a reality that wildlife conservation often occurs as a result of compromise. If the FC suspended felling for the summer, the UK would still need timber, therefore they would import it. But where from? Tropical rainforests? Other temperate northern forests? Or the new holy grail for timber, the Siberian taiga? Wherever, there will have been a detrimental effect of wildlife somewhere down the line.

I suppose what we can do [pertaining specifically to this instance] is keep an eye on FC activities, encourage their felling programme to be as low-impact as possible, and continue to point out any other "oversights".
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