Woodlands are home to a plethora of species of flora and fauna. Most people who choose to work or play in the woods do so because they love living in the outdoors and because they love being surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of nature. It is the responsibility of anyone involved in woodland management to promote wildlife conservation.
The sound of chainsaws in the woods frightens some occasional visitors, who fear that animals are suffering. However, woodland work is heavily regulated these days when it comes to the disturbance of nesting sites and habitats. A balance has to be found. Without management, woodlands fall into decay, and while that might appear to offer better opportunities for wildlife there is a risk that invasive species will dominate and a lack of light will wreck the chances of some our most popular plants.
Britain’s woodland environment is largely a managed one, stretching back centuries and centuries. To maintain that delicate balance, nurturing and maximising our limited resources whilst protecting the flora and fauna, is the duty and reward of anyone who owns, manages or visits the woods.
If you are a woodland owner or manager you need to know if your woodland has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). If you have acquired your woodland recently your solicitor should have discovered this as part of the searches, or if you have owned the woodland for a long time, lease or rent it or manage the woodland as a volunteer you can contact your local office of Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), Natural England (NE) or Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) who will be able to give you more information. A woodland can be designated as an SSSI because its flora and fauna are special or rare (even one species), or if the geology is unusual (for example a quarry exposing interesting rock strata).
If your woodland is an SSSI you will have to obtain the permission of CCW, NE or SNH (depending where your wood is located) before doing any work in your woodland so they can ensure that your plans will not affect those species or features for which the site is designated. If you do not you will be risking a fine or even imprisonment.
You should also check if any of your trees, or part or even all of your woodland are subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). TPOs are designed to protect trees or woodland that are of particular landscape or historic importance. Your local planning department will be able to tell you if your woodland is affected; if so you will need the permission of your local council for any work on the affected trees.
If you would like to help conserve the biodiversity of woods you might want to contact your local Wildlife Trust, or work with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. If you own or manage a woodland and would like more information on the conservation of flora and fauna within your woodland please see the links below
Land Management Advice – RSPB
www.wildlifetrusts.org – for your nearest Wildlife Trust
SSSIs and other designated areas – Joint Nature Conservation Committee
SSSIs and other designations – Natural England
SSSIs – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Tree Preservation Orders (downloadable details) – Department for Communities and Local Government
Safeguarding protected species – Forestry Commission
publications on woodland biodiversity and ecology – Forest Research
Tree Preservation Orders – Woodland Trust