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Working together to protect the Forest's wildlife

The recent New Forest Wildlife Forum saw representatives from local wildlife organisations discussing their on-going work to help improve the extent and quality of local habitats and provide habitat links to the area surrounding the National Park. 

Ian Barker, National Park Ecologist, shares his thoughts on the event.

I was very pleased to see so many individuals and organisations attending the recent Wildlife Forum event and judging from the amount of conversation and engagement everyone got something out of the event.

There were 11 hugely interesting speakers at the Forum covering a range of topics, I only wish there had been more time for each expert to talk! You can see a few of them in action in the video below:

Like others at the event I was keen to find out more about the projects I’m not already involved in.  In the past I’ve helped with some of the radio tracking of bats in the Forest being carried out by the Hampshire Bat Group, so I was interested to hear how similar work is now being carried out on woodcocks.  I was also taken by the technique of using reflective colour ringing on the birds which was new to me as a surveying method.

After the speakers had finished we moved on to a discussion session, which showed the passion that people bring to their work in the Forest. There were calls for greater communication and engagement with the wider public and this prompted discussion both during and after the event. Several people pointed out to me that the Forest does benefit from a number of environmental education centres, schemes to support education in schools and staff with public communication roles such as Rangers. However we’d all like to do more to reach people and tell them about the work that is going on across the Forest, so this is something to aim to improve in the future.

In particular, technological advances are changing the way the public communicates and this provides opportunities to reach people directly with information, whilst also presenting some of us with challenges - I for one have never blogged before!

It was interesting to note that several of the talks were about projects that had sprung into life after previous joint workshops, showing that working together is a great way to attract funding and get projects off the ground.

A prime example is the Community Wildlife Plans that produce wildlife plans and encourage communities to record their local wildlife – this project evolved from work with partners in 2011. At the Forum we enjoyed a fantastic talk from Angela Peters, Community Wildlife Plans Project Officer, on her progress so far and plans for the future with this exciting project.  

This partnership working is set to step up a gear as a range of partners are planning plenty of exciting projects as part of the recent successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Landscape Fund. New Forest - Our Past, Our Future is the name of the overall project and you can keep an eye out for further information on the bid here and watch out for more blog posts on this throughout the year.

The theme of the day was summed up for me by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Chief Exec Debbie Tann.  Debbie’s reminder for us to take a joined-up approach to conserving the Forest’s wildlife really struck a chord with me.

In particular it fitted with our use of the ‘ecosystem approach’, which highlights the wider benefits provided by nature and the need for people to work together to protect habitats and wildlife. While we always aim to work as closely as possible with other organisations, there’s always scope for improving our work and involving our partners both within and around the New Forest.  

Why not do your bit and get involved in the work Bournemouth University is undertaking in the Forest by checking out their online survey.

Thanks again to all those that gave up their valuable time to give a presentation or attend the Forum.  

This entry was posted by Matt Stroud on Friday 28/02/2014


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