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Forestry Commission protects New Forest wildlife during UK freeze

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New Forest horse in the snow

As the snow and icy conditions continue across the South Coast, the Forestry Commission is going the extra mile to conserve the New Forest’s unique and enormous variety of plants and wildlife.

Local forest craftsmen are felling holly trees across several sites around the New Forest to provide feed for the resident animals as they forage for food in these difficult conditions.

As part of the Forestry Commission’s annual winter pollarding scheme, which is typically undertaken in January, holly felling not only helps to maintain the forest’s habitats but it provides foliage for deer and commoning stock, such as ponies, to graze on.

Dave Morris, the Forestry Commission’s Open Forest Manager in the New Forest said:

“Pollarding is key to our ongoing wildlife conservation efforts but it becomes even more worthwhile that we can supply our larger inhabitants with additional food at times like these. In fact, holly is a real treat at this time of the year so when the forest craftsmen rev up their chain saws it won’t take long for the ponies to appear!”

Historically, New Forest commoners would have cut back the holly as feed for their livestock. The Forestry Commission has now taken on the task of holly tree felling to ensure the maintenance of local plant and wildlife habitats.

Left un-cropped, the holly trees would shade out the lower levels of woodland home to rare lichens, which thrive on sunlight, affecting key habitats throughout the New Forest. The trunks of the felled trees are put to good use as firewood, while the foliage is left in situ for animals to graze upon. 

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development.

Paula Quigley or Louise Perfect at Grayling PR, tel 02380 382970 or email 
Libby Burke at the Forestry Commission on 02380 286832.