ATF letter to JNCC re revision of SSSI guidelines January 2016

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Ancient Tree Forum
Grange West, Thornford,
Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 6QG
01935 873766
Brian Muelaner, Chair
[email protected]
19 January 2016
To: Dr Paul Rose
Chief Scientist, JNCC
Monkstone House
City Road, Peterborough
PE1 1JY
Dear Dr Rose
Revision of SSSI guidelines
We are aware that the 'Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs', first published by the
Nature Conservancy Council, are currently under revision by JNCC.
These guidelines have been a cornerstone of UK conservation for over a quarter of a century, and
the foundation for the protection of many key habitats. Alongside this, we are aware that
ecological thinking, theories of climax vegetation, and concepts of prehistoric habitat structure
and composition, have all advanced significantly in the intervening period.
As Kenneth Olwig has shown ‘the conservation of nature, no less than the conservation of culture,
is culturally founded’. In other words, the classification which we choose to adopt, will inevitably
constrain our actions and thinking, and our capacity to protect communities which are an integral
part of our natural environment. In recent years there has been increasing awareness that woodpasture was an almost universal habitat for millennia, until medieval compartmentalisation more
strictly divided the landscape into separate grasslands and woodlands. Many of our rarest flora
and fauna are associated with wood-pasture, and this is a habitat under serious threat. Our
concern is to ensure that the importance of wood-pasture, in terms of its biodiversity, and its longstanding association with the cultural landscape and history, is given adequate expression and
protection in the SSSI Guidelines. To maintain the rigorous division of separate chapters on
grasslands and woodlands does not reflect the reality that for most of our history there was no
such distinction, and largely perpetuates early 20th century concepts of habitat, based on medieval
and post-enclosure agricultural and silvicultural management.
We are very firmly of the view that wood pastures are best treated as a mosaic type habitat, in
order to truly reflect the complexities of their conservation management. Their conservation
ENHANCING THE MANAGEMENT OF ANCIENT TREES
www.ancient-tree-forum.org.uk
Registered Office: Brian Paul Secretaries, Chase Green House, Chase Side, Enfield, Middlesex, EN2 6NF.
Registered Charity No.1071012 Company No. 3578609
involves a unique combination of pasture and tree management. It is our contention that wood
pastures – and former wood pastures - should not be just a subsection of woodland guidelines,
and that other vegetation types should not be treated in isolation from trees, eg grassland or
heathland, as our experience has been that land managed as grassland almost invariably results in
damage to wood-pasture interests.
We are writing therefore to enquire how current thinking, and the importance of wood-pasture,
will be given adequate recognition within SSSI Guideline chapter headings as a result of the
current revision.
Yours sincerely
Brian Muelaner
Chair, Ancient Tree Forum
ENHANCING THE MANAGEMENT OF ANCIENT TREES
www.ancient-tree-forum.org.uk
Registered Office: Brian Paul Secretaries, Chase Green House, Chase Side, Enfield, Middlesex, EN2 6NF.
Registered Charity No.1071012 Company No. 3578609
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