Ancient woodlands to offer new project opportunities?

We asked the question, would 2014 bring challenges or opportunities, well it appears that another is already on the horizon?

It seems like the biodiversity offsetting much loved by developers and their advocates and supporters could, under new proposals outlined by Owen Patterson offer massive opportunities …. 100 new trees to be planted for the loss of each ancient one.

Just think of the jobs created by such projects, mouth-watering numbers of zero-hour contracts to be managed by some quasi quango or key stakeholder?  Or, perhaps they’re expecting ‘Big Society’ to step in and undertake the mitigation delivery?

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Ancient woodland on the island of Inchmahone, Lake of Menteith, Scotland.  Eileen Henderson.  Via Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.

The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Times  articles published today, all allude to Mr Paterson admitting that this generation would lose out from loss, but the BBC rushed to the Minister’s rescue with PR spin “It is “highly unlikely” ancient woodland would be destroyed under new plans to speed up the planning process, the government has insisted.”   The Daily Mail hints at green rebellion, wow …. bring it on, long overdue!  Some comments on the media websites publishing the articles are well worth reading, some ask all the right questions so hopefully the debate will continue and perhaps it will now bring better focus on the real purpose behind biodiversity offsetting and ecosystem service audits etc.?

If some of the ancient woodland in this country dates back to the 1600s how can it be replaced in one generation?  We wonder how they propose to mitigate for the invertebrate fauna associated with ancient woodlands, can any readers direct us to that information?  If not then perhaps the champion of this scheme?  I wonder if the Minister or his civil servants in Defra have heard of the saprophytic index used to assess wooodland invertebrate fauna?  I wonder if such fauna registers on their radar or in the eco-system service evaluation manual?  It is all very well to offer that “People will say that’s no good for our generation but, over the long term, that is an enormous increase in the number of trees”, but where will newly planted tree saplings acquire their obligate micro-fauna from?  Around 13% of our native invertebrate animal and fungus species have life cycles making them dependent on the dead wood environment at some stage during their development*.  In total, almost 5,000 British species are known to be associated with deadwood, how will this be accommodated within the Minister’s plans?  A new mini industry, breeding and translocating species around the UK to order?

Fallen tree in Denny Wood, New Forest.  Jim Champion.  Via Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.

Already the Woodland Trust and FoE have spoken out about it, but where are the rest?

Is this latest proposal a result of Paterson’s predecessors failure to sell off the forests?  If the public won’t allow the sale of their land and assets then we’ll make them available to developers by relaxing red-tape?

Do you have a view?  Does the environment matter, do we in modern day Britain need a healthy and diverse natural environment?




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