Time to Fight for our Ancient Woodlands

05D-7838 Beech Fagus sylvatica Leaves Catching the Morning Sun in Autumn Near Bowlees in Upper Teesdale County Durham

Please take the time to sign the 38 Degrees petition to Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary for the current government.

Please Click to Sign the 38 Degrees - Petition Save Our Woodlands.

Owen Paterson has suggested that developers should be allowed to destroy ancient woodland as long as they agree to offset this by planting new trees elswhere. This so called "offsetting" is designed to give developers the upper hand when it comes to destroying what little we have left in the name of progress. I have always suspected Paterson's environmental knowledge could be summed up on the back of a postage stamp and yet again he has demonstrated this by being stupid enough to think that ancient woodlands can simply be replaced by planting trees in another location.

When it comes to making decisions about the environment it really does worry me that this is the same inept individual that was outwitted by the badgers because in his words "Badgers moved the goalposts" and the same person who "likened supporters of the fox hunting legislation to Nazis, claiming a "a ban would do terrible damage to sheep farmers" (1). The fact that gamekeepers and farmers who experienced problems with foxes (percieved, or otherwise) have always and indeed still continue to kill foxes was lost on him. Foxes are still killed and it was simply the killing of foxes with dogs for entertainment that was banned.

While any form of woodland is valuable, ancient woodlands need hundreds, if not thousands of years to develop. Ancient woodland in England is defined as an area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD (2). In human terms this may seem a long time, but it is a mere blink of the eye when it comes to the natural world and some of our ancient woodlands go back to the original wildwood which colonised the land as the glaciers retreated some ten to fifteen thousand years ago.

06D-6312 Acorn from the Pedunculate Oak (English Oak) Tree Quercus robur Laying on a Moss Covered Woodland Floor England UK
From acorn to mighty oak can take over a hundred years

The relationship between, trees at various stages of their life cycle with other organisms such as invertebrates, flora, fauna and fungi are highly complex. A single oak tree may be considered mature at say seventy five years of age, yet they are capable of living for several hundred years. Even in death they still play an active part in the woodland ecosystem and to go through its life cycle from acorn to mature tree and then return to the soil may take five hundred to a thousand years.

03D-6736 Fallen Tree Covered in the Many Zoned Polypore Fungi Coriolus versicolor
For some organisms death is only the beginning

With only 2% of the UK covered by ancient woodland and much of that with little on no legal protection (3), it's value as a wildlife habitat alone should be enough for us to want to protect it. That said these woodlands are also valuable as a places for people to enjoy, be it walking, biking, education, wildlife watching, or simply to sit and unwind. There are also economic benefits to local businesses that rely on tourism. Clearly destroying what little is left is madness.

07-3970a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) in Autumn Woodland UK
There is more to a woodland than trees alone

Sadly when it comes to the countryside and it's wildlife nothing is safe from the commercial interests of developers and their lackey's in parliament. People power stopped the forest sell off last year, so please take a minute to sign the petition and help put a stop to this as well.

Please Click Here to Sign the 38 Degrees - Petition Save Our Woodlands.

1. MP's Ban Foxhunting.

2. Natural England 30 May 2012. Version 3. A revision of the ancient woodland Standing Advice.

3. Woodland Trust 2002. Why is the UK's Ancient Woodland Under Threat?

Images/text copyright David Forster