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Grazing in the New Forest

Grazing in the New Forest


TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham has called for fewer animals to be allowed to roam the New Forest and claims that overgrazing is destroying it.

New Forest National Park Authority Chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘The animals are the architects of the Forest and this ancient system of commoning is guided by the Verderers, advised by Natural England, and working with the Forestry Commission as land manager.

‘We work in partnership with these organisations to ensure the ancient practice and culture of commoning survives in the future.

‘The farming subsidy schemes will be changing when we leave Europe and all these organisations are working together to design a new bespoke subsidy scheme specifically for the Forest, which pays for the good that the commoners do for the unique landscape and wildlife.’

A number of organisations we work with to care for the Forest have issued the following statements in relation to this debate. Read what our partners are saying below:

Verderers of the New Forest

Forestry Commission

Deputy Surveyor for the New Forest, Bruce Rothnie, at the Forestry Commission, said: ‘Those who work every day within the New Forest and observe its cycles of management know that its condition is best judged over decades of time and not year by year.  Its diversity of plants and animals comes from traditional practices that have been continuing for hundreds of years including the grazing by animals and burning of heathland.  Without the New Forest’s unique grazing system and land management we could not sustain the quality and nature of the landscape we all enjoy today.

‘The fluctuating density of grazing season by season and year by year is exactly what creates the special nature of the Forest.  The habitats created are a haven for some of the rarest plants and animals and the New Forest is the only stronghold for many.  The condition of the grazed habitats and the commoner’s stock is assessed regularly by experts.  It is the longer term trends that are important for the future of the Forest.  Snapshot critiques often lack the understanding of those trends and nature’s pace of change.  The commoners are rightly proud of the standard of welfare of their animals and they would be quick to address any concern if their stock were deteriorating due to shortage of vegetation.

The partnership of organisation’s including the Forestry Commission, National Park Authority, Verderers and the Commoners Defence Association, is focussed on finding the best solution to support commoning and land management post-Brexit.  We are working hard to influence how any new subsidy system could be shaped to deliver the best outcomes for the New Forest and its long-term future.  The Forest is poised to demonstrate the immense value for money it provides for society.

The regeneration of the grazed woodlands is another feature which responds at nature’s pace and will occur over time periods that extend well beyond the memories of a single lifetime.   History tells us that regeneration has occurred in pulses over many decades and these woodlands will naturally go through periods of more open character and more closed tree cover – that is the natural cycle of woodland regeneration where grazing animals roam.’

Commoners Defence Association

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust


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