Forestry Commission England harvests over 1 million tonnes of timber every year. This is a big task and we play a large part in an important industry for the country providing timber, jobs and local income.
Growing trees for timber means that they may have to be managed at all times of the year. Some activities are seasonal, such as planting, but others including harvesting happen all year round and continue through spring and summer when birds are breeding and nesting. Before every large operation, the Forestry Commission assesses to see what needs to be done and what the impact may be on the environment.
This assessment includes consultations with knowledgeable experts both within and outside of the Forestry Commission and we regularly review our procedures to ensure we are not only working in line with the latest guidance available, but in fact helping set the agenda when it comes to environmental policies. For example harvesting in the wet winter months may do more harm to the ground than working in drier conditions.
Operations such as thinning (taking out young trees to let the remaining ones grow larger) which is what is currently taking place at Sherwood Pines, can benefit a wide range of wildlife by letting in more light and creating a more diverse habitat.
We take particular care to look for wildlife that has special protection including badgers, bats and rare or threatened birds. We will either suspend or alter operations to make sure this wildlife is protected.
The Law allows birds which are not specially protected to be disturbed, or their eggs or nests to be destroyed, provided it is incidental to a lawful operation and could not have been reasonably avoided.
The Forestry Commission works with others to develop good practice and guidance. For example we have co-published with the RSPB two booklets about woodland management for birds. We also consult widely to develop Forest Design Plans. These ensure that forest operations are managed sustainably and in proportion to the woodland area so that wildlife disturbance is kept to a minimum and most wildlife can move within a local area to find a new place to live if it is disturbed or its current shelter destroyed. This therefore means that any negative effects are minimal in the medium or long term.
We are also independently audited (UKWAS and FSC) to ensure that we are operating sustainably and responsibly across all of our operations including tree felling.