A number of changes have been made to Habitats Regulations that increase the legal protection given to protected species wherever they are found in England. Several of the species covered by the Regulations are found in woodland, and it therefore has implications for how woodlands are managed and forestry operations carried out.
The Forestry Commission in England has been developing the means of implementing these changes and embedding them within the forestry sector. We are committed to increasing the sustainable management of England's woodlands, not least for the biodiversity protected by the Habitats Regulations. As such we have worked with partners to ensure that this amendment is as far as possible drawn into best practice guidance for sustainable forestry, rather than being an additional regulatory measure.
The amended Regulations require changes to the management of woodlands and forestry operations in areas where protected species are found. The species that can occur in England's woodland are:
- All 17 species of bat
- Great Crested Newt
- Sand Lizard
- Smooth Snake
Guidance for each of these species is provided below.
(The Natterjack Toad and some of the plant species, such as Yellow Marsh Saxifrage, may rarely occur in woodlands or be affected by forest operations.)
Since 1994 it has been an offence, under these Regulations, to deliberately kill or cause significant disturbance to a protected species, or to deliberately destroy their eggs. It has also been an offence to ‘damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place’ used by them (such as a bat roost in a tree or a dormouse nest on the woodland floor).
However, the level of protection has been increased to ensure it complies with the EU Habitats Directive, as set out to the UK Government following a judgement in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This judgement set the UK Government a tight deadline for incorporating the ECJ ruling into law.
The amended Regulations include as an offence any damage or destruction of a breeding site or resting place. Previously if damage was ‘an incidental result of a lawful operation' and reasonable precautions had been taken to avoid it, it would not have been an offence. Therefore there is a risk of woodland operators committing an offence if they have not carried out planned operations carefully, with the necessary checks and sought a license where required.
Woodland managers need to consider the presence of protected species and follow good practice guidance to avoid committing an offence. In some cases management practices may need to be modified or rescheduled to a less sensitive time of year, and where this is not possible or adequate then operators may need to apply for a licence to remain within the law. Most activities will be able to continue without the need for a licence through the following of good practice guidance.
The Forestry Commission - nationally through this resource and locally through our network of regional offices - will be able to provide support in relation to the changes and the guidance provided where protected species are present, and will process any applications for licences to carry out work where they are needed. The licences will be issued by Natural England's National Licensing Unit.
A series of tools have been developed to help support and advise woodland owners and managers on how to manage woodland where there are protected species present. This guidance is in compliance with sustainable forestry management practices and the Habitats Regulations.
These set out how to find out if EPS are present in your wood and how to operate if they are.
- All 17 species of bat (PDF 92 kb)
- Dormouse (PDF 95 kb)
- Great Crested Newt (PDF 139 kb)
- Otter (PDF 67 kb)
- Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake (PDF 79 kb)
A Checklist (PDF 104 kb) has been developed to guide woodland owners and managers through the decision-making process.
This sets out application procedures and includes the licence application form.
This suite of guidance has been produced in liaison with Defra and Natural England, representatives of the forestry sector and other expert conservation bodies and individuals.
Two alternative versions of the application form are available: an electronic version and a manual version. We encourage electronic applications wherever possible.
- Electronic licensing form (RTF 61 kb) - updated May 2008
- Manual licensing form (PDF 31 kb) - updated May 2008
- Licensing form guidance notes (PDF 34 kb) - updated May 2008
- Licensing process flow chart (PDF 22 kb)
Click on the links below for information on the 2007 amendments.
Click on the links below for Forestry Commission presentations on Habitats Regulations.
- Implementing the Habitats Regulations (PDF 3 Mb)
- Good Practice (PDF 3 Mb)
- Licensing (PDF 700 kb)
- Case Study (PDF 13 Mb)