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A round up of the top stories as chosen by the CJS Team.

 

Monday 24 Janaury

Car parks set to lose their 'free' status - Lake Distrct National Park

Motorists using four Lake District “free” car parks are to be charged in the future, with money raised being used to help finance vital preservation work in the national park landscape.

A meeting of the national park authority in Kendal today (Wednesday) heard the pilot scheme – affecting car parks in Windermere, Thirlmere and Ravenglass - would bring in much-needed money to help combat a major shortfall in its annual budget.

A report from Car Parks Operations Manager David Coxen, said the authority had a duty to regularly monitor and review all of its car parking charges and to assess the potential for additional income, particularly in view of recent cutbacks to its annual budget grant from Central Government.

Currently the LDNPA operates 16 pay-and-display car parks, which generate around £1.2million of income. It also manages 30 other car parks which are currently free-of-charge, but which have the potential to bring in extra revenue.

 

Our forests are a precious asset - Telegraph View: England's forests are a national treasure that must be protected

Wyre Forest, Worcestershire

The Wyre Forest in Worcestershire is typical of the woodland that the Forestry Commission manages Photo: Jason Friend / Alamy

Last October, this newspaper revealed that the Coalition was planning to sell off many of Britain’s forests; today, a group called Save England’s Forests demands that this decision is reversed. Their letter to this paper is signed by 100 luminaries, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Are they right?

 

Letter to the Telegraph begins: We believe the Government’s decision to pursue legislation to allow the disposal of all England’s public forest estate is wrong.

Three clauses in the Public Bodies Bill 2010-11, currently being debated in Parliament, will authorise the Government to sell the whole of our public forest estate to commercial interests on the open market. Without asking our permission Government has already allowed the sale of 15% of our public woodlands.  Similar plans have been rejected by the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

We, who love, use and share the English forests believe that such a sale would be misjudged and shortsighted.

Read the letter in full. on teh Save England's Forests website

 Sale of Rigg Wood could herald forests' future

Sale of Rigg Wood could herald forests' future - Telegraph

With the Government preparing to sell off some of Britain's forests to the private sector, campaigners have highlighted the case of Rigg Wood in Cumbria as a sign of things to come.

Rigg Wood was sold for £116,000 in October Photo: NORTH NEWS

 

The padlocked gate tells its own story.

The main entrance to what was once a popular picnic and walking site in the heart of the Lake District is closed. Campaigners say the public have effectively been shut out.

Rigg Wood, a 40-acre (16 hectare) site by the banks of Coniston Water, was sold for £116,000 in October. Many local residents only learned of the sale when they noticed that the small car park at the site had been closed by its new owner.

Now campaigners are warning that Rigg Wood's fate will become a familiar tale if the Government presses ahead with plans to sell off forests throughout England.

 

Guardian 'comment is free': If nationalising forestry was a disaster, an unthinking sell-off would be worse

We should fear the breakup of the Forestry Commission less and care about restoring our lost greenwoods more

A forest is made of more than trees. Penned-in, straight-sided deadly green lines of sitka spruce are no closer to the woodlands of our imagination than a concrete road: the antithesis of freedom and nature. Yet they are what the Forestry Commission has mostly created in Britain since it was formed in 1919 to supply pit props and softwood pulp to industry and so what campaigners, stirred by news of the commission's breakup, are trying – unwittingly – to save.

This week the government will begin consultation on the commission's future, but the likely outcome is already clear. It wants to slim down the commission, changing it from being an owner of forests to an overseer.

Some forests will be sold, and others handed to local control. A minister has let slip talk of "disposal" – prompting protests and the stirring of Tory rural England – despite promises about community powers and access rights. Perish the thought that this is about raising money: except that of course it is, the environment department's budget cuts being among the sharpest.

 

 Energy Saving Trust funding cut by half, reports The Guardian

Department of Energy and Climate Change halves 2011-12 funding for energy-saving consumer bodyThe government has slashed by half its funding of the Energy Saving Trust (EST), the Guardian has learned.

The EST provides grants and free advice to the public to help them reduce their energy use, bills and greenhouse gas emissions. The government has previously said that energy efficiency measures are the cheapest way of tackling energy and climate change.

Chris Huhne, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, said last year: "We must take action on energy saving. For too long, the debate around energy has focused on supply."

In a separate statement he added: "There is quite a big part of our agenda where clearly the expertise that exists in ... the Energy Saving Trust will be very important."

But the EST confirmed today that the funding it receives from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) is to be halved in 2011-12. It is likely to lose one-third of its 300-strong workforce, mainly in London.

 

Chinese lantern ban calls from farmers and air authority, Guardian report

NFU and the Civil Air Authority say that growing popularity is putting houses, livestock, crops and even lives at risk

In recent years it has seemed that no celebration is complete without a finale of paper lanterns floating into the night sky. But the growing popularity of Chinese lanterns is putting houses, livestock, crops and even lives at risk, organisations from the National Farmers' Union to the Civil Aviation Authority warn today.

The group wants a ban on the sale of the sky lanterns, which are paper and wire hot air balloons fuelled by a naked flame and date back to 3rd-century China. 

Hedgehog

Hedgehog 'rescue plan' unveiled in the Telegraph

Conservationists have unveiled a raft of initiatives to stop the hedgehog from vanishing from the UK.

A drastic decline in the hedgehog population has prompted warnings the creatures could become extinct in little over a decade's time 

Photo: CORBIS

 

They are one of the nation's favourite wild animals and the inspiration for Beatrix Potter's Mrs Tiggy Winkle.

But a drastic decline in the hedgehog population has prompted warnings the creatures could become extinct in little over a decade's time.

Now, entire communities have been told to join together to create hedgehog-friendly zones to save the species.

The People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has embarked on a three-year campaign to save the creature.

Householders will be asked to link their gardens with those of their neighbours by making holes in shared walls and fences, to increase the areas over which the animals can roam.

    

Tuesday 25 January

Heartwood Forest sets welly wanging world record!* - Woodland Trust

Woodland Trust President Clive Anderson joins in record breaking attempt
Heartwood Forest was the location for a new Guinness World Record TM* on Sunday January 23rd, when 282 people took part in a 'largest welly wanging competition' as part of the latest tree planting day on site.

To set the record a minimum of 250 people needed to take part during the course of the day - by 'wanging' a wellington boot as far as possible. The final figure of 282 even included Woodland Trust President Clive Anderson, who threw his wellington a respectable 10.15 metres. The longest of the day was 26.7 metres by local resident Paul Lowe - some way off the world record of 63 metres!
The record attempt was held as part of the Trust's "Give it some Welly for Woodland" campaign, which is looking for people across Hertfordshire and beyond to help raise funds to protect and create native woodland.

 

Caterpillar defence methods affect lifespan and offspring numbers - NERC

Caterpillars regularly using a defence mechanism to deter predators not only produce fewer eggs but also grow more slowly and often die earlier, according to research published today.

Scientists from the Universities of Liverpool and Glasgow studied the caterpillars of large 'cabbage white' butterflies (Pieris brassicae). They found that the caterpillars regurgitate semi-digested cabbage to make them smell and taste unpleasant to predators, but if they have to defend themselves from frequent attacks this has an adverse effect.

 

Rare wild plants: the missing link in our food supplies? - Natural England

New report highlights role of wild plants in delivering food security for the future

A new report Crop Wild Relatives: Plant Conservation for Food Security published today (25th January 2011) by Natural England shows how the scarce wild relatives of modern crops could hold some of the seeds of success in the fight for global food security.
All of our food crops were originally wild plants whose descendants have for centuries been selectively bred to develop higher yielding crops.  In the process a great deal of their original genetic diversity has been lost. In the 20th century, for example, 75% of genetic diversity in crops was lost due to increased use of scientifically bred varieties.
The result is that we are now dependent upon a limited genetic range for most of our main food plants, leaving them susceptible to problems such as new pests and diseases and the effects of climate change.

 

Wednesday 26 January

New partnership to build on Losehill Hall learning legacy - Peak District National Park

The future of a Peak District National Park learning centre has been secured enabling the number of education courses it provides to be expanded.

The Peak District National Park Authority has agreed to sell Losehill Hall at Castleton to YHA (the Youth Hostels Association) in a deal which includes a legal clause to ensure the building is used as a Youth Hostel and education and activity centre for a minimum of 20 years.

 

Future of Britain's forests - National Trust

We endorse the public’s concern over the future of Britain’s forests and insist that any change of ownership must protect public access to woodlands as well as their amenity, conservation and cultural value.

We have agreed a set of principles (PDF / 127KB) which should guide any proposed disposals. These have been sent to Government and the key public bodies involved after consultation with other nature, wildlife and conservation groups.

The charity is publishing its views on the eve of the launch of the Forestry Commission’s consultation on the future of the public forest estate.

The three key principles are:

  1. that the conservation and public access value of any site being considered for disposal is properly safeguarded for the future under any new management or ownership arrangements;
  2. that if any land is transferred to conservation organisations or community groups, the sites should be adequately funded by government;
  3. If such support is not guaranteed, the Trust will argue that important conservation assets should remain in the care of the appropriate public body in order to fulfil the government’s responsibility to protect their public value.

Our views, shared by several other charities, have been submitted to the government ahead of the Forestry Commission’s consultation to be launched on Thursday. 

 

Access not ownership the key to British Woodland – Ramblers warn

On the eve of the government consultation on the sale of our forests the Ramblers warns that the debate on access to British woodland must go beyond the ownership of Forestry Commission land.

Only 18% of British woodland is owned by the Forestry Commission and of that land only 17% has been dedicated to allow full public access. What is vital is not just who owns the land but that good quality access is secured so that everyone across the country can enjoy our woodland heritage.

The Ramblers have previously outlined 5 key tests¹ which must be put in place to protect access before any sale of Forestry Commission land goes ahead, including the dedication of all Forestry Commission land to ensure full public access. However, the Ramblers argues that the current debate must move beyond the discussion of public versus private ownership, to the real issue of access and enjoyment of all woodland.

 

New look for Science Advisory Council - DEFRA

Changes to the Science Advisory Council (SAC) for Defra have been announced to help the department achieve better and more co-ordinated scientific advice. 

 Following the review of Defra’s Arms Length Bodies last October, and a separate independent review of the SAC, the majority of Defra’s scientific and technical advisory bodies are being reconstituted as expert scientific committees to provide advice on specific areas.

The SAC will be re-modelled based on the recommendations of the independent report.  Although it will remain a Non Departmental Public Body, it will have a strengthened role in supporting the Chief Scientific Adviser in the oversight of all Defra expert scientific committees.

 

National Park responds to grant cut - New Forest National Park

The New Forest National Park Authority plans a wide-ranging package of measures to respond to the 21.5% cut in its government grant over the next four years which was announced in December last year.

The proposals are a mixture of budget savings, use of reserves, new ways of working, restructuring and improved income generation.

Chairman, Julian Johnson, said: ‘The scale of the savings we need to make to balance our budget is significant: our grant reduces from just over £4m this year to £3.16m by 2014 – a cut of £866,000 or £217,000 a year.  This comes on top of the 5% saving we had to make within this financial year and does not include the impact of inflation and the loss of other grants.

‘Nevertheless we have approached this challenge positively, carefully considering all the ways in which we could address the issues and coming up with a plan that uses a range of measures.  In doing this we have worked hard to safeguard our ability to deliver benefits in and for the New Forest and to minimise the need for redundancies.’

   

Thursday 27 Janaury

New direction for England’s public forest estate - DEFRA

Published on Thursday 27 January 2011 at 9:53am

England’s best known historic forests will be protected for future generations under proposals announced by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman today. The transfer of heritage forests such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean to charitable trusts will mean walkers, riders and cyclists will still be able to enjoy them as they do at the moment.

The proposals are contained in a consultation document on the ownership and management of the 18% of England’s woodland currently run by the Forestry Commission.  The document lays out different approaches for different types of woodlands.

The plans make clear that these woodlands will not simply be sold off to the highest bidder. Instead they recognise that no two woodlands are the same and that no single ownership model is appropriate. The document suggests a mixed approach that would deliver benefits for users and taxpayers, and makes clear that public access and biodiversity will be protected.  The government will bring forward amendments to the Public Bodies Bill to ensure the public benefits the forests provide are protected

 

Introduction to the Consultation Website

This consultation is about the future ownership and management of the public forest estate in England – land managed by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It sets out the rationale for a move away from the Government owning and managing significant areas of woodlands in England and the principles which will guide the Government in deciding on the way forward. The consultation proposes a mixed model approach to reforming the ownership and management of the public forest estate to create a far greater role for civil society, businesses and individuals.

We invite views on the mixed-model approach, the criteria for deciding which parts of the estate fit within each model, the principles guiding each model, the safeguards for providing public benefits, and alternative approaches. We also invite views on the implications for the future role of the Forestry Commission in England of these proposals.

 The Forest of Dean is England's first national forest park

England's forest sell-off plan gets a partial rethink – The Guardian

The environment department is expected to announce that up to 80,000 hectares of woodland will be put into charitable trusts

The Forest of Dean is England's first national forest park and largest oak woodland. Photograph: The Forestry Commission

 

The government is to make a partial climbdown tomorrow over proposals to sell off England's woodlands, following pressure from campaigners and Liberal Democrats. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is expected to announce that up to 80,000 hectares of England's most cherished woodlands, such as the Forest of Dean and Cannock Chase, will be put into charitable trusts with the requirement that their current goals are maintained.

Government sources said the plans, to be set out in a consultation paper, had been misunderstood at the outset. Commercial forests, roughly 120,000 hectares, will be leased to the private sector, using a similar model to Scotland. Smaller parcels of woodland will offered to community groups to manage.

 

Last refuges of England’s rarest species revealed - Natural England

Ten of the most important wildlife sites in the country, the last refuges of some of our rarest species, are disclosed today by Natural England.

They range from romantic islands and royal parks to ancient fenland and spectacular dales.

All are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), the best examples of wildlife and geology that Britain can offer. The list is published alongside a new report by Natural England – Protecting England’s Natural Treasures – which details how the hard work of landowners, farmers and volunteers has transformed the fortunes of England’s SSSIs, halting or reversing the long process of decline that most SSSIs had experienced over recent decades.

  

 SparrowhawkCull of Britain’s feathered fiends to save disappearing dawn chorus – Times (Subscription only – sorry)

 

Sparrowhawks kill an estimated 50 million songbirds a year Photolibrary

   

Crows and magpies are to be trapped and killed in the first large-scale trial of culling to protect songbirds and save the disappearing dawn chorus.

Campaigners seeking to reverse the decline in songbirds hope to use the results to argue for much wider culling of predators, including protected species such as sparrowhawks and buzzards.

The £100,000 trial cull, due to start in March, has exposed a deep rift between two rival bird conservation groups, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Songbird Survival.

The RSPB rejects claims that avian predators are responsible for the decline in species such as the tree sparrow, corn bunting and yellowhammer, numbers of which have more than halved since 1970. It insists that the main cause of songbird decline is intensive farming, which has robbed songbirds of their habitat and food sources. It also argues that a widespread cull of crows and magpies could be illegal.

Songbird Survival questions whether farming practices are the main cause of the decline, pointing out that it has continued despite the billions of pounds paid to farmers in the past decade to protect bird habitats.

 

Whodunnit? Mystery fish poacher revealed by photographic evidence - RSPB

White-tailed eagle flyingPhoto by Ian McCarthy
Sea eagles have a wide diet including fish and seabirds

A young sea eagle has been identified as the mystery fisherman of Dochgarroch after the half-eaten remains of one or two large fish were found along the towpath of the Caledonian Canal near Dochgarroch, five miles south of Inverness.  

Photographic evidence of the sea eagle was obtained by members of the Bird family who live nearby after the youngest member of the family, ten-year-old Grace, a pupil at Dochgarroch Primary School, spotted the bird near the canal. 

   

Bid to find cause of seasonal dog illness – Forestry Commission

A new website has been launched in a bid to help find out why some dogs have fallen ill when visiting woodlands across Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) has created an online questionnaire for people to report incidents where their pets fell ill or perhaps even died.

Reports of the mystery sickness – dubbed Seasonal Canine Illness - first came to light in 2009 and more dogs fell ill  in 2010.  

The problem has also been reported in other parts of the country, including East Anglia and Warwickshire, and only seems to occur during Autumn months.

Submit your evidence to the AHT here.

 

Friday 28 January

Launch of public forest estates consultation – myths busted - DEFRA

The myth – The Government is privatising all of England’s forests and as a result the public will lose access to them.

The truth – Our heritage forests, such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean, are unequivocally not for sale. We are consulting on a proposal to transfer them to a charity or charities, and walkers, riders and cyclists will still be able to enjoy them as they do at the moment.

 

'Quick fix’ forest sale must not threaten our natural heritage – The Wildlife Trusts

Commenting on the consultation into the sale of publicly-owned forests, a high proportion of which have wildlife value, The Wildlife Trusts urge the Government to recognise the practicalities and realities of securing the long-term protection of England’s forests for the future. 

The transfer of ownership of these forests away from the Forestry Commission presents a real risk to the future of our natural heritage. Nature’s recovery is a key objective of the imminent Natural Environment White Paper – this could be a barrier to achieving that.

 

 We're not out of the woods yet, RSPB warns

Woodland sunrise taken at RSPB HeadquartersPhoto by RSPB Images - Stuart Geeves

 

The RSPB has cautiously welcomed news that protecting and enhancing wildlife is to be a key test for how the Government plans to dispose of England’s Public Forest Estate,

However, the charity has warned that the fight to save vital wildlife habitats is not over and it will be scrutinising Government plans closely.

Today the Government launched its consultation over the future of the Forestry Commission England estate.

RSPB conservation director Mark Avery said: “Protecting wildlife and ensuring public access is a key test for any change in ownership of our forests. But the sheer scale of the changes may make this very difficult to achieve in practice.

“We remain open minded about these proposals – but we need to be reassured that whoever manages former state run forests, whether private individuals, companies, leaseholders or trusts and charities, will protect our native wildlife.

 

Forest sell-off plans met with huge opposition – The Guardian

Communities and environment groups have expressed dismay over government plans to sell 258,000ha of English forests

Forest sell-off : The Hands Off Our Forest of DeanThe Hands Off Our Forest campaign group marches through the Cyril Hart Arboretum. Photograph: For The Guardian Adrian Sherratt

 

The vast majority of England's public woodland will be offered for sale to commercial businesses, the Guardian has learned from documents suggesting that only 1% will be acquired by communities and 2% by charities.

As government plans to sell off English forests at market rates were unveiled yesterday, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) admitted it did not know whether local communities and charities would try to buy them – or even be able to raise the money to do so.

 

Open Habitats under biggest threat from the Forestry Commission Sell-Off - Mikes King, Director of Conservation for The Grasslands Trust

The Media have finally woken up to the proposals to sell the Public Forestry Estate in England. And quite rightly, there is now an increasing clamour for the proposals to be critically appraised. What has not been emphasised is the very large area of open habitat within the FC estate which will be the most vulnerable to damaging change, thanks to the ineffectual regulations that fail to protect open habitats like grasslands.

 

 Today's forestry proposals won't protect access (27/1/11) Tom Franklin Chief Executive of the Ramblers

The Ramblers remains concerned that proposals for the sale of Forestry Commission land will lead to a reduction in public access.

Today’s proposals will largely protect access to heritage woodland such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean, and even large commercial woodland like Kielder Forest in Northumberland. But there is a big BUT.  Roughly 50% of the Forestry Commission estate currently falls into neither ‘heritage’ nor ‘large commercial’ categories, and this half could end up for sale on the open market with no guarantees that current access will be maintained.  Guarantees have not been given that the good quality access provided by the Forestry Commission will be maintained for all woodland, and the government has also shown that it is firmly against dedicating any further land to full public access. Far from protecting and enhancing access, the current proposals don’t meet the Ramblers key tests for maintaining public access to Britain’s woodlands.  

 

Woodlands: Management, not ownership - NFU

It is not who owns the national woodlands but how they are managed – that's the view of the NFU as Defra launches its official consultation into the sale of the English Public Estate today.

The NFU has concerns that changes to the way woodlands are managed could have impacts on neighbouring farmland. Rabbit or deer control could be affected, and access land could be adversely affected by heavy felling machinery. It is calling for the views of local stakeholders to be included in the consultation.

 

Local Authorities don’t want to take on Open Space Anymore! – the Land Trust

Talking to a number of different developers and house builders recently we’re getting consistent anecdotal evidence that local authorities are generally no longer willing to take on the new public open spaces that are created alongside their developments.  Equally speaking to a number of local authorities not only confirms this, but takes the issue a step further – many councils are looking to divest some of their existing spaces.  At a recent regional Green Space conference a show of hands revealed that the majority of authorities were considering some form of public space asset transfer.

 

 

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Disclaimer: the views expressed in these news pages do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CJS. 

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