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The largest forest on Anglesey is stirring again after a management plan for its future was finally agreed.
The new plan for Newborough Forest is the culmination of seven years of consultation by Forestry Commission Wales, which manages the woodland on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government.
Following approval of the plan, FC Wales wasted no time in resuming work to improve the much-loved forest and nature haven by sending in foresters to carry out essential thinning which will help to protect the forest’s future.
The plan gives a detailed picture of how Forestry Commission Wales will manage the forest for the next five years and sets out how it should develop over the next 50 years.
The discussion over the future of the forest – a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Europe’s highest environmental designation – led to the formation of the Newborough Liaison Partnership (NLP) by concerned locals.
Ruth Jenkins, FC Wales Forest District Manager, said, “Newborough is very important to the local community and to many other people who have a strong connection with the area and interest in its future.
“When planning started we would never have imagined it would take so long and we are extremely grateful to all those people who have given up a lot of their time over many years to help develop this plan.”
Progress in developing a plan was welcomed by NLP member Ian Miller who said that, in respect of those areas of forest that would be retained, FC Wales had done an excellent job of pulling together a “well thought out plan”.
Referring to those areas of retained forest, he said, “This should result in improved biodiversity and age structure and ultimately help towards an objective to create an Atlantic dune woodland, certainly on some parts of the site.
“It should also provide the sort of forest habitat that will support the further development of a red squirrel population and enhance the variety of flora, fauna, fungi etc. in the forest and open glades that are widespread through the forest.”
A new management plan for Newborough was required to ensure that the conservation objectives encompassed by the European Habitats Directive and other environmental legislation are met.
CCW has advised FC Wales that, to comply with Article 6.1 of the Directive and to move the five sand dune habitats towards favourable conservation status, the trees in a limited area of Newborough forest need to be removed.
CCW says that this is to allow the restoration of a natural dune zonation behind the shoreline and to address the perceived impacts of the forest on the hydrology of the designated habitats.
An independent arbitration panel will consider disputed issues relating to forest clearfelling proposed by the plan. This will include the actual conservation status of the dune habitats and whether significant hydrological impact on dune slacks has been demonstrated.
The panel's findings are not expected until later in 2011 and, in the meantime, the management plan allows essential forest operations to proceed.
John Browne, who heads up the FC Wales planning team, said work would include some planting in the spring, with careful consideration given to species choice.
“The aim is to diversify the forest to future-proof it as far as possible to the unknown longer-term impacts of climate change. We will be using broadleaved species where we can, but there will still be a strong emphasis on pines as these are particularly suitable in marine environments.”
He added, “The plan will also address measures to look after red squirrels and other important species in the forest.”
The plans include thinning trees in some areas to open up a section of the forest and allow more room for the remaining trees to grow, as well as developing a more diverse forest.
Thinning will also help to fight a fungal disease called red band needle blight that has afflicted some trees by increasing airflow between trees.
However, even after so many years not all aspects of the site’s management have been resolved.
FC Wales Head of Estate Management, Peter Garson, said the management plan took account of the ongoing science review into whether there is any significant impact on a mobile sand dune system adjacent to the forest.
He said, “As practical and pragmatic land managers, we have put forward a plan for the whole forest but, within this plan, have recognised that there remain areas of uncertainty.
“The whole-forest plan shows the likely impact of this science review, but any changes along the disputed coastal margins or by the Warren will not be implemented until the review is concluded.”
Ian Miller of the NLP said claims that conservation and Habitats Directive requirements demanded clearfelling to protect the sand dune habitats had not been substantiated.
He added, “I support the forest management aspects of the plan but reject the proposed clearfelling that will disconnect the forest from the beach and seascapes of the Cefni estuary and LLanddwyn Bay.
“This will make the peaceful, windward area along the Cefni estuary a 'no-go' zone in poor weather and disenfranchise the less mobile. In doing so, the proposed felling would destroy what distinguishes this coastal forest from other inland recreational forests.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Newborough Forest lies within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and is part of the wider Natura 2000 Network, a European designation aimed at conserving global biodiversity in line with international obligations.
The objective of SACs is to enable vulnerable habitats and species to be maintained or, where necessary, restored to favourable conservation status. SAC designation requires European member states to put in place measures to conserve certain habitats and species on the site and to take appropriate steps to avoid deterioration of the natural habitats and habitats of species, as well as significant disturbance of the species for which the site is designated.
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email firstname.lastname@example.org