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NEWS RELEASE No: 166547 MARCH 2017

Monitoring helps conservation project protect New Forest

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Monitoring of a conservation scheme in the New Forest has been increased to extend its benefits for rare species and habitats.

The New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme is the largest environmental improvement scheme in England and is restoring internationally-important New Forest habitats.

So far, the scheme has returned more than nine miles of streams to their natural meandering routes, protecting the New Forest’s internationally-important wetlands by slowing water flow.

The project aims to increase the New Forest’s resilience in the face of modern day pressures, such as population growth and increased visitor numbers. It is a rare opportunity to conserve fragile habitats and support commoners on such a large scale.

The project is now expanding its monitoring work to gather an even greater range of scientifically robust evidence concerning the effectiveness of its various restoration techniques. The work will shed more light on the environmental benefits of the scheme and any improvements that could be made in the future.

The 10-year HLS agreement with Natural England is held by the Verderers of the New Forest. The scheme is managed by them in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.

The scheme has appointed a new Monitoring Officer, who will spearhead scientific studies to assess the impact of the scheme’s wetland restoration on:

  • How streams connect with their surrounding habitats to increase biodiversity
  • Detailed botanical surveys to find rare plants in bogs and mires
  • Freshwater invertebrates, through a volunteer monitoring project
  • Fish population and spawning habitats, including brown trout, eels and Brook Lamprey

Wetland restoration in the New Forest seeks to reverse the damaging impacts of artificial straightening of streams since the Victorian era. This straightening can cause bogs to dry out, stream banks to erode and may increase the risk of flooding downstream.

Gemma Stride, HLS Monitoring Officer, said: “I am passionate about connecting people to the landscape and sharing the magic of the natural environment with others. I hope this role will allow me to do this and show people the real benefits brought by wetland and wider habitat restoration.”

“The New Forest is an enchanting and special place that needs our protection in the face of unprecedented modern day pressures. This monitoring work will help us to show how habitat restoration is making the Forest more resilient to cope with these pressures.”

“I’m excited to get to grips with what surveys and monitoring are telling us about our work to protect the National Park.”

To find out more about the work of the HLS scheme in the New Forest visit  



Gemma Stride, HLS Monitoring Officer in the New Forest

Notes to Editors

1. The role of the Verderers of the New Forest is to protect and administer the New Forest's unique agricultural commoning practices; to conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character, including its flora and fauna, peacefulness, natural beauty and cultural heritage;  and to safeguard a viable future for commoning.

2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment.

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.

For more information, visit

3. Natural England is the government's advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England's wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

4. The Environmental Stewardship Scheme, of which HLS is one strand, is administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and funds farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.

The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:

  • Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
  • Protect the historic environment and natural resources
  • Conserve biodiversity.
  • Promote public access and understanding of the countryside

The ES scheme is now closed to new applicants and has now been succeeded by the Countryside Stewardship scheme

5. The New Forest National Park Authority works with partners to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities. It also has a duty to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park.

Media Contact

Esta Mion, Communications Manager, Forestry Commission - South England Forest District. / 07900 137 957.