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Forestry England to rewild 8,000 hectares of land
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Forestry England to rewild 8,000 hectares of land

Agency announces plan to deliver four new 'wild areas' in a bid to make them 'the most valuable places for wildlife across England' Forestry England is preparing to rewild more than 8,000 hectares of its land across four of the nation's forests, in a bid to experiment with a more hands-off approach to forestry management which it hopes can better support wildlife and biodiversity, the agency has announced today. England's largest land manager has unveiled plans to develop four new 'wild areas' across four different forests where it aims to "let nature take the lead", an approach it hopes "will over decades make them the most valuable places for wildlife across England". It said the new approach to forestry management and restoring ecosystems would deliver biodiversity benefits that "spread out across other forests and the wider countryside". The biggest new wild area is set to span at least 6,000 hectares in the Kielder Forest in Northumberland, where the agency said it aims to restore a fully-functioning upland ecosystem by expanding native woodland and scrub to create more open habitats. As well as restoring peatland and natural water courses in the area, Forestry England also said it aimed to create an "innovative model" of modern productive forestry, balancing nature-first approaches alongside sustainable wood production to boost the long-term resilience of the forest. Other wild areas are being created in Newtondale in North Yorkshire, Purbeck in Dorset, and Neroche in Somerset, each of which is set to trial a different mix of activities designed to restore natural processes and increase the diversity and abundance of wildlife, Forestry England said. Potential activities to be trialled across all four wild areas could include the reintroduction of lost wildlife such as butterflies, pine martens, and beavers, as well as bringing back rare plants, moving fungi to restore soil, introducing wilder cattle, or ‘rewiggling' rivers. However, Andrew Stringer, head of environment at Forestry England, said the new approach was about more than just "choosing to return one or two lost species". "This is about allowing all parts of the jigsaw to fit back together so an entire ecosystem can function well across large areas, from apex predators at the top to microscopic soil organisms beneath our feet," he said. "We will intervene less in these four wild areas, giving nature the time and space to reshape the forest landscape. "Forestry will still be an essential activity, creating canopy gaps and varied structure, acting just like the lost megaherbivores of the past. Over time the benefits will be enormous in terms of climate resilience, reversing biodiversity loss, providing greater natural capital benefits to society such as natural flood mitigation, soil health, air quality and carbon storage. It's an exciting new chapter in our biodiversity work in the nation's forests." Forestry England said it planned to work alongside a raft of experts and other organisations to create the new wild areas, to assist with nature restoration activities, scientific data gathering, and analysing progress in each area. The work is being supported by funding from Defra, as well as five-years' corporate funding towards the Kielder Forest wild area from leisure company Forest Holidays, it said. Stringer said there was "an exciting unpredictability" about the new approach in the four new wild areas, but he was "confident that whatever happens" they would become "more nature-rich, with benefits for neighbouring landscapes". "We simply don't know exactly how each of them will change over time or the detail of what they will look like," he said. "But this uncertainty is a positive part of being experimental and allowing natural processes to shape each landscape in the years ahead."

20 hours ago

20 hours ago

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