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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

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Don’t make squirrels homeless

SIR – Since the 1970s the Forestry Commission has broadcast a policy of managing its forest for public recreation and wildlife conservation as well as for timber harvest.

wn redsquig
Leave him somewhere to live: A plea for the red squirrel’s natural habitat to be left alone

A year or so ago the whole nation was alarmed by the Government’s plan to sell off these public forests to private ownership, with suggestions that this would lead to widespread felling with no regard for the previous recreational and wildlife aspirations of the Forestry Commission. A national outcry and successful campaign led to the withdrawal of these proposals.

One of the iconic images of the Lake District is that of the red squirrel, whose diet is mainly the seeds of conifer cones including pine, spruce and larch as well as the fungi that live in symbiosis with the trees. How sad then to see what the Forestry Commission is doing to our West Cumbrian forests. Knockmurton, Crag Fell, Dent and Lowther Forest decimated, and the whole of Heckbarley forest from Scarny Brow to the flanks of Caw Fell now completely felled. ‘Blanket felling’ leaves no shelter or food for birds or small mammals, including red squirrels. Here on Heckbarley there is only a sense of desolation as one walks through hectares of stumps and churned up mud.

Perhaps the Forestry Commission ecologists would enlighten us to who or what, apart from the Forestry Commission income, is benefiting from this wholesale destruction. If the plans include the planting of more indigenous broadleaf varieties of trees could this not have been started in areas of felled conifer forest to allow succession of growth?

As a post-script I see that notice has gone up of the intentions of the Forestry Commission to start work on felling the Uldale Forest soon.

V. SULLIVAN

Brackenwray, Ennerdale

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