2018-01-31  facebooktwitterrss

Farmer Trust Central to Success of Northern Forest Proposal

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is warning that calls for rural stakeholders to help lead work on the Northern Forest proposal could be dampened, amid the awaited decision on proposals to release lynx into Northern England.

Plans to create a new Northern Forest have been kick-started by the Government, as part of its 25 Year Environment Plan. It is providing £5.7 million to support the project, which will see trees planted in a belt spanning north and south of the M62 corridor.


NSA is interested in the concept of the project, being developed in partnership with the Woodland Trust and Community Forests. But feels its calls on farmers, land owners and other key stakeholders to identify and target areas most suitable for, and likely to benefit most from, tree plantations could be met with reservations if plans to release lynx into Kielder Forest, Northumberland were to be approved.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says:
“NSA is very interested in the concept of a joined up, large scale approach to indigenous and integrated woodland plantations which could collectively be identified as a ‘forest habitat’. We know of many farmers who, under normal circumstances, may engage with planting more trees and integrating them within their farming system.

“A woodland planting on this scale could create a great habitat for passive, non-invasive wildlife such as pollinating bees and other insects, small mammals and birds which all play their part in a healthy ecosystem and live in harmony with sheep farming. At the same time, we also recognise the ecological value of large scale open grassland areas which is why we need integration to provide a balance of agricultural productivity alongside habitat provision for highly valued, open land species.

“I would be highly concerned that with an impending decision on the proposed lynx release still hanging over us, a plantation of this scale could be perceived as a habitat for this highly dangerous, opportunistic hunter to expand into and this could not provide greater disincentive for farmers to engage with the idea.

“I couldn’t encourage any sheep farmer to get behind something of this type and scale without assurance that their involvement wouldn’t come back to bite them in the form of a decision to release a high-level predator such as lynx.”

NSA is fully opposed to Lynx UK Trust’s proposals and procedures and has been vocal on the issue for a number of years. It has serious concerns over the wider implications lynx would have on the countryside in the UK, given the high reliance of wild species on farming and grazing practices and the level of investment which has gone into agri-environment schemes to enhance this.

Phil continues:
“The development and uptake of agri-environment schemes over the last 25 years has seen the sheep industry and agriculture as a whole make huge strides forward in engaging with natural resource management.

“NSA could be enthusiastic about the prospect of the new Northern Forest, but the necessity to work alongside pastoral sheep farming interests is essential. It would be a shame for a conflict of interest, in the form of lynx, to put a spanner in the works ahead of plans to get this off the ground.”


Related Links
link Bryan Griffiths takes over as NSA Chairman
link Young Sheep Farmers Embark on NSA Ambassador Programme
link Shepherds Missing a Stress-Free Profit Opportunity
link Rams Deserve Better Attention