4.1 Statutory designated sites and protected species

4.1.1

Requirement

a) Areas and features of high conservation value having particular significance for biodiversity shall be identified by reference to statutory designations at national or regional level and/or through assessment on the ground.

b) Adopting a precautionary approach, the identified areas, species and features of high conservation value shall be maintained and, where possible, enhanced.

c) There shall be ongoing communication and/or consultation with statutory bodies, local authorities, wildlife trusts and other relevant organisations.

d) Statutory designated sites shall be managed in accordance with plans agreed with nature conservation agencies, and shall be marked on maps.

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The system of designated sites in the UK forms a representative sample of existing ecosystems within the landscape.

These areas and features of high conservation value include:

Identification and mapping of these features may be carried out on an ongoing basis, provided that it has been completed for an area prior to significant woodland management operations taking place.

Where the boundaries of a designated site extend beyond the boundary of the WMU, it may not be possible for the owner/manager to significantly influence or change the overall condition of the site.

  • All known areas and features mapped
  • Field observation
  • Approval of forest plan by the relevant forestry authority
  • Workers are aware of such sites and of plans for their management
  • For all potentially damaging operations, awareness is demonstrated of how areas will be protected and/or safeguarded
  • Management plans for statutory conservation areas and monitoring of implementation of those plans
  • Condition statements from statutory bodies
  • Maps
  • Discussion with the owner/manager demonstrates how areas will be safeguarded and/or enhanced
  • Planning documentation shows how areas will be safeguarded and/or enhanced
  • Pro-active approach to the identification of areas and features of significance for biodiversity, appropriate to likely biodiversity value.
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4.1.2

Requirement

Appropriate measures shall be taken to protect identified priority habitats and species in accordance with plans agreed with nature conservation agencies. In planning and implementing measures within the WMU, the owner/manager shall take into account the geographic range and ecological requirements of priority species beyond the boundary of the WMU.

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Measures should include steps to protect features such as breeding sites, resting places and display sites of priority species.

  • Field observation
  • Management planning documentation
  • Discussion with the owner/manager.
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4.2 Conservation of ancient semi-natural woodlands (ASNW)

4.2.1

Requirement

a) Ancient semi-natural woodland shall be identified by reference to published maps and/or by assessment on the ground.

b) Adopting a precautionary approach, the high conservation value of ancient semi-natural woodlands shall be maintained and, where possible, enhanced.

c) Adverse ecological impacts of pests, diseases and non-native species shall be identified and inform management.

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Ancient semi-natural woodlands are the key priority sites for woodland conservation in the UK.

Establishing the validity of the site’s status should not solely rely on ancient woodland inventories. Assessment on the ground should take account of:

  • Soils
  • Vegetation
  • Old trees
  • Historical and archaeological features and landscape implications.

Use should be made of natural regeneration or planting stock from parental material growing in the local native seed zone where appropriate and possible. Following outbreaks of pests or diseases, the owner/manager may seek advice from relevant forestry authorities or statutory bodies.

Maintenance of biodiversity values often requires targeted interventions. Management should be in accordance with the relevant FC practice guides for semi-natural woodlands.

Potential adverse impacts may include:

  • Browsing by rabbits, deer and other animals
  • Grazing by livestock
  • Colonisation by invasive non-native species
  • Visitor pressure.

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4.3 Management of plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS)

4.3.1

Requirement

a) The owner/manager shall maintain and enhance or restore features and areas of high conservation value within plantations on ancient woodland sites.

b) The owner/manager shall:

  • Identify and evaluate remnant features,
  • Identify and evaluate threats,
  • Adopting a precautionary approach, prioritise actions based on the level of threat and the value of remnants, and
  • Implement targeted actions.
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Establishing the validity of the site’s status need not solely rely on ancient woodland inventories. In evaluating, prioritising and implementing actions owners/managers should take account of:

  • Historical and archaeological features and landscape implications
  • Remnant features
  • The relationship with other biodiversity features and priorities and management objectives within the WMU and adjacent land use as a whole.

Active management is likely to be required to maintain the biodiversity, environmental and cultural values of these sites, including where continued growth of plantations for timber or woodfuel production is to be undertaken. Restocking and thinning should be carried out in such a way that remnant features are enhanced and buffered.

A precautionary approach is appropriate in most instances even if initially no remnant features may appear to be present. A gradual approach should be the default where remnants are threatened.

Threats may include shading, deer browsing, windthrow and ground damage from harvesting, and damage to veteran trees from woodland operations.

Where remnants are not threatened or where site characteristics allow a more rapid approach may be adopted. In some situations, such as inaccessible, unthinned stands or where there are heavy shade-casting species present, it may not be possible to apply a gradual approach, even though it would be the preferred option for threatened remnant features. In such circumstances, where possible, remnant features should be bolstered before operations.

Exploratory silvicultural interventions may help inform the choice of management prescriptions. Where complete canopy removal has occurred it will be important to ensure a successor canopy is established as soon as possible to alleviate further threats. The context of the site within the WMU and wider landscape will also inform any prioritised restoration plans. All operations within PAWS need to take account of remnant features, including ground flora, and mitigate against damage to them.

  • Management planning documentation
  • Ancient woodland inventories
  • Other studies
  • Remnant threat analyses
  • Field observation
  • Discussion with the owner/manager.
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4.4 Protection of conservation values in other woodlands and semi-natural habitats

4.4.1

Requirement

a) Areas, species and features of conservation value in other woodlands shall be identified.

b) The identified areas, species and features of conservation value shall be maintained and where possible enhanced.

c) Adverse ecological impacts shall be identified and inform management.

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This requirement relates to woodlands other than ASNW and PAWS (see sections 4.2 and 4.3).

Priority should be given to woodlands or woodland relicts that may have retained/acquired valuable ecological characteristics.

Typically, these values may be found in:

Potential adverse impacts may include:

  • Browsing by rabbits, deer and other animals
  • Grazing by livestock
  • Colonisation by invasive non-native species
  • Visitor pressure.
  • Field observation
  • Discussion with the owner/manager
  • Management planning documentation
  • Historical maps
  • Monitoring records.
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4.4.2

Requirement

a) Valuable small-scale semi-natural habitats that have been colonised, planted, or incorporated into the WMU, but which have retained their ecological characteristics (or have a high potential to be restored), shall be identified and enhanced, restored or treated in a manner that does not lead to further degradation of their potential for restoration.

b) Adverse ecological impacts shall be identified and inform management.

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This requirement relates to small-scale habitats within the WMU, which may include:

  • Moorland
  • Peatland
  • Heathland
  • Wood pasture
  • Grassland
  • Freshwater habitats such as ponds.

Appropriate management may include:

  • Rides and glades containing remnant semi-natural communities are widened and extended
  • Areas with a rich ground flora and shrub layer are heavily thinned
  • Remnants of wood pasture, veteran trees or other ‘open-forest’ habitat are gradually opened up
  • Heathland, bog and other open habitats are re-created by premature felling without restocking
  • Maintenance of open ground around historic environment sites.

Particular attention should be paid to priority habitats and to habitats identified in country-level forest and peatland policies.

Potential adverse impacts may include:

  • Browsing by rabbits, deer and other animals
  • Grazing by livestock
  • Colonisation by invasive non-native species
  • Drainage.

Non-native species may be retained where they have a high ecological or cultural value.

Woodland removal to facilitate infrastructure or built development which is not integral to the management of the rest of the woodland cannot meet this requirement.

See also section 2.13.2 which covers larger-scale habitat restoration through conversion to non-forested land.

  • Workers are aware of such sites and of any plans for their management
  • For all potentially damaging operations, awareness demonstrated of how areas shall be protected and/or safeguarded
  • Discussion with the owner/manager demonstrates how such areas will be managed
  • Planning documentation shows how areas will be managed.
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4.4.3

Requirement

Areas of semi-natural habitats shall constitute a minimum of 5% of the WMU. Where existing habitats or restored remnant features comprise less than 5% of the WMU, the owner/manager shall take action to convert other areas to more natural conditions.

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Preference should be given to restoring to semi-natural woodland unless there are clear biodiversity gains to be made by restoring to open habitats.

These areas contribute to the minimum of 15% of the WMU where management for conservation and enhancement of biodiversity is the primary objective, as identified in section 2.11.1.

  • Management planning documentation
  • Field observation.
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4.5 Watershed management and erosion control

Requirement

a) Areas and features of critical importance for watershed management or erosion control shall be identified in consultation with relevant statutory bodies.

b) Where critically important areas or features are identified, their management shall be agreed with the relevant statutory bodies.

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Situations where forest management is critical for watershed management or erosion control are relatively rare, and are likely to be identified during consultation processes.

Further information is available in UKFS guidelines on soils and water.

  • Records of consultation
  • Management planning documentation
  • Monitoring records
  • Licences or consents.
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4.6 Maintenance of biodiversity and ecological functions

4.6.1

Requirement

Natural reserves shall:

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Where a WMU is made up of more than one woodland, the owner/manager should locate natural reserves where they will deliver greatest biodiversity benefit, rather than necessarily in every individual woodland.

There should be no loss of existing natural reserves.

Areas managed as natural reserves within the areas identified by sections 4.1-4.5 may fulfil this requirement.

These areas contribute to the minimum of 15% of the WMU where management for conservation and enhancement of biodiversity is the primary objective, as identified in section 2.11.1.

  • Management planning documentation including maps
  • Field observation.
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4.6.2

Requirement

Long-term retentions and/or areas managed under lower-impact silvicultural systems (LISS) shall constitute a minimum of 1% of the WMU. Where this is impracticable, an additional minimum 1% of natural reserve shall be identified.

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Where a WMU is made up of more than one woodland, the owner/manager should locate long-term retentions or LISS areas where they will deliver greatest biodiversity benefit, rather than necessarily in every individual woodland.

Areas managed as long-term retentions and/or LISS within the areas identified by sections 4.1-4.5 may fulfil this requirement.

These areas contribute to the minimum of 15% of the WMU where management for conservation and enhancement of biodiversity is the primary objective, as identified in section 2.11.1.

  • Management planning documentation including maps
  • Field observation.
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4.6.3

Requirement

The owner/manager shall plan and take action to maintain continuity of veteran tree habitat by:

  • Keeping existing veteran trees, and
  • Managing or establishing suitable trees to eventually take the place of existing veterans.
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This requirement applies in WMUs where there are existing veteran trees.

Owners/managers of WMUs without veteran trees may choose to promote future veteran trees, as part of their wider management to maintain and/or enhance biodiversity value.

Actions may include:

  • Freeing from shading and/or competition
  • Pollarding younger trees or lopping older trees to prolong their life.

Veteran tree management should not conflict with safety of the public or workers.

  • Field observation
  • Harvesting contracts
  • Discussion with the owner/manager and workers
  • If there is a conflict with safety, the issues have been documented
  • Management planning documentation.
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4.6.4

Requirement

a) The owner/manager shall plan and take action to accumulate a diversity of both standing and fallen deadwood over time in all wooded parts of the WMU, including felled areas.

b) The owner/manager shall identify areas where deadwood is likely to be of greatest nature conservation benefit, and shall plan and take action to accumulate large dimension standing and fallen deadwood and deadwood in living trees in those areas.

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The owner/manager should refer to deadwood guidance produced by relevant statutory conservation agencies, forestry authorities and others when identifying areas of greatest nature conservation benefit and when planning actions to accumulate deadwood.

Current evidence suggests that, over the long term, deadwood (not including stumps, which are usually retained after felling) should accumulate to roughly 20 m³ per hectare averaged – though not uniformly distributed – across the WMU.

In most hectares there should be a few standing and fallen stems contributing to the overall deadwood provision.

Deadwood management should not conflict with safety of the public or workers or the health of the woodland.

Actions may include:

  • Keeping standing dead trees and snags
  • Keeping and protecting old and/or previously pollarded trees alive through appropriate management
  • Only harvesting windblow when it is of significant value unless more than 3 m³/ha is blown and sufficient deadwood is already accumulating on site
  • Keeping naturally fallen trees or major branches
  • When thinning or clearfelling, and where safe to do so, creating snags and providing fallen deadwood where insufficient has already accumulated.

The accumulation of deadwood throughout a rotation provides for greater continuity of the full range of deadwood habitat types.

The most valuable areas within which to develop deadwood habitats are where linkages can be made with existing deadwood habitats to develop ecological connectivity over time; these areas include:

Retained deadwood should be matched to the requirements of those species likely to be important on the site. Habitat diversity is improved by having:

  • Stems of greater than 20 cm diameter, particularly large dimension timber from native species
  • Snags at variable height
  • A range of tree/shrub species at varying stages of decay and in a variety of light conditions
  • Deadwood in living trees.

See also section 5.2.1 in relation to mitigation of risks to public health and safety.

  • Field observation
  • Harvesting contracts
  • Discussion with the owner/manager and workers
  • If there is a conflict with safety or woodland health, the issues have been documented
  • Management planning documentation.
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4.7 Maintenance of local native seed sources

4.7.1

Requirement

a) In woodlands identified in sections 4.1-4.4, where appropriate and possible, owners/managers shall use natural regeneration or planting stock from parental material growing in the local native seed zone (native species).

b) In ancient and other semi-natural woodland, where natural regeneration is insufficient, planting stock from ‘source-identified’ stands in the local native seed zone shall be used if it is available. If timber quality is an objective of the planting, the use of stock deriving from selected stands within the local native seed zone shall be considered appropriate.

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There should be clear justification where non-local sources are used. This may include reasons of tree vigour, timber quality, and long-term forest resilience.

The identity code used for parental material includes an ‘N’ when it applies to native material from known indigenous sources.

  • Seed and plant supply invoices and other relevant records
  • Evidence of efforts to identify planting stock from source-identified stands in the local native seed zone.
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4.8 Cultural and historical features/sites

4.8.1

Requirement

Through engagement with the relevant statutory historic environment agencies, local people and other interested parties, and using other relevant sources of information, the owner/manager shall:

  • Identify sites and features of special cultural and historical significance
  • Assess their condition, and
  • Adopting a precautionary approach, devise and implement measures to maintain and/or enhance them.
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Examples of relevant sources of information include:

  • Maps
  • Databases
  • Field observations.

Typical examples include:

  • Prominent viewing points
  • Landscape features
  • Veteran and other notable trees
  • Historical features and archaeological sites
  • Woodlands which feature in literature or which are of artistic significance
  • Historic landscapes and woodlands which are still managed under traditional systems.

Where relevant, a professional archaeological walkover survey may be required to inform decisions and provide baseline evidence.

Sites of potential historical importance discovered during the course of forest management should be reported to the relevant statutory historic environment agencies.

See also section 2.3.1 in relation to consultation.

  • Any known features mapped and/or documented
  • Discussion with the owner/manager demonstrates rationale for management of relevant sites
  • Records of consultation with statutory bodies, local authorities and interest groups to identify features
  • Documented plans.
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4.9 Game and fisheries management

4.9.1

Requirement

Game rearing and release, shooting and fishing shall be carried out in accordance with the spirit of codes of practice produced by relevant organisations.

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Consider impacts on priority habitats and species and other native species.

Release and feeding areas should be located in areas where there will be low impact on ground flora.

Predator control should be carried out in line with best practice.

The use of lead shot over wetland is restricted by regulations.

  • Field observation
  • Relevant permissions and leases
  • Discussion with the owner/manager/responsible person demonstrates awareness of the law and good practice
  • Discussion with interested parties
  • Permissions from statutory bodies where these are required
  • Membership of sporting and conservation organisation.
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