Forest report highlights importance of wildlife

Butterfly Conservation welcomes the Independent Forestry Panel report, especially its recognition of the need for active woodland management to conserve dwindling woodland wildlife, which includes many of our most threatened butterflies and moths.

Our data show that woodland butterflies have declined by 56% in the last 15 years.

The panel was established in March 2011 after the Government wisely withdrew its plans to sell off the national Forestry Estate in England. Our statementat the time expressed our deep concern because of the implications for the conservation of threatened butterflies and moths.

We are pleased with the wide scope of the report and the emphasis it places on conserving woodland wildlifeand the need for active woodland management.

Most threatened woodland butterflies and moths rely on management and are declining because of neglect or inappropriate management in both private and state woodlands.

The report also gives important recognition of the role that state owned woodland can play in conserving wildlife at a landscape scale as envisaged in the recent report "Making Space for Nature".

This is will play a crucial part in delivering the Governments Biodiversity 2020 strategy. Butterfly Conservation runs several pioneering landscape projects in association with FC England which are having great success in halting the decline of threatened species.

This is made possible because of the large holdings of Forest Enterprise and knowledgeable local staff.

We are pleased that the report says that these woods should remain in public ownership and that this needs to be properly funded to achieve public goods.

We are also pleased that it recommends an expanded role of the Forest Service in giving grants and encouraging management of privately owned woods. However, this will also need proper resourcing if it is to bring neglected woods back into management.

Although we welcome the reports recommendation to expand woodland cover in England from 10% to 15% by 2060, it is vital that this is done wisely and in the right places. In the past, some new woodland has been placed on sites of high nature value.

We are keen that our unique datasets on butterflies and moths are used to target new woodland into areas where they avoid harming existing interests and bring benefits to existing populations.

Dr Martin Warren, Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive said "We hope this report heralds a new dawn for England's forests that enhances their value for wildlife as well as the enjoyment of people.

"There are many opportunities that should be grasped by Government when it gives its response."