Lowland heathland today is of both national and international conservation importance due to its rarity and the variety and abundance of wildlife it supports. Lowland heathland is also very important, for both its past cultural significance and for the present day recreational opportunities it provides for people. Its very creation owes itself to man and represents a way of life that has all but disappeared today.
However, the conservation significance of the remaining heaths has only recently been fully recognised. The UN Convention on Biodiversity (1992) resolutions led to the 1994 UK Biodiversity Action Plan in which lowland heathlands were identified as a priority habitat with targets set for their conservation and recreation. Many other heaths were given statutory protection at this time and enormous efforts are now being made to reverse the decline in the extent and condition of lowland heathland.
Scope of the report
This report summarises the extent of lowland heathland on the Forestry Commission estate, its condition and its quality. It also presents the efforts made by the Forestry Commission in reversing the decline in area, quality and active management of heathland patches across the estate. It is the culmination of an England wide investigation and covers all the heathland under Forestry Commission management, both freehold and leasehold. This area includes the huge extent of heath, mire and grassland of the ancient New Forest, the extensive but more fragmented areas in Dorset, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, in East Anglia, Surrey and Sussex and the many smaller isolated areas in counties from Devon to Yorkshire.