Cared for: working with nature and respecting landscapes, natural and cultural heritage

Key commitments:

  • We are restoring around 85% of areas on ancient woodland sites to largely native species. The remaining areas will be enhanced through our management.

  • We aim to increase broadleaved tree cover from the current 8% of woodland cover to around 20%.

  • We are committed to maintaining the best open and woodland habitats in good ecological condition.

  • We will identify particularly vulnerable species for which the National Forest Estate is important and take specific conservation action.

  • We will safeguard archaeological sites through our planning and management and recognise special places and features with local cultural meaning.

Key priorities:

  • We are strengthening our approach to ecosystem service delivery, and have recently appointed a new Environment and Ecosystem Services Manager. Priorities include how we sustain and improve the estate’s water environment, and assessing the estate’s stock of carbon in its soils and vegetation.

  • Our planners are exploring how to significantly expand the area of broadleaved woodland on the estate to create functioning habitat networks, but in a way that is complementary to our commitment to sustain the productive potential of the Estate. This in part means developing our approach to productive broadleaved woodland, in places where management is feasible and environmentally appropriate. It also means looking for opportunities to create broadleaved woodlands in areas of less potential for productive conifer crops.

  • We are committed to sustaining, and where appropriate, restoring high priority habitats. Our biggest programme is removal of non-native trees from ancient woodland sites and we are exploring how we best do this with ecological integrity, but also avoiding health and safety issues (for example associated with standing dead trees) and achieving operational efficiency.

  • We also have a significant programme of managing and restoring open habitats like lowland raised mires and coastal dunes. With stakeholders we are seeking an appropriate balance between restoring open habitats and woodland removal by focusing on sites with the highest ecological potential. We are having to plan the pace of restoration programmes in accordance with available resources.

  • We have agreed priority species with stakeholders, which also tend to be good indicator species for wider habitat quality. We are actively monitoring for Chalara in ash and the Phytophthora of juniper and responding in accordance with national policy. As part of our work to conserve priority ground-nesting birds, we work with government and stakeholders on where and when predator control is an appropriate part of the management regime.

  • We take a very proactive approach to safeguarding archaeological sites and design our open space networks to incorporate significant features, instituting sympathetic livestock grazing regimes where feasible. Our professional archaeologist advises us on the best way to incorporate appropriate woodland management into cultural landscapes.