Time is running out for ancient woodland

Ancient woods and trees are being lost across the UK at an alarming rate. Even here in Northern Ireland, infrastructure projects are being proposed that will destroy and damage woods and trees that are centuries old. The government can act to stop this.

Our most precious ancient and long-established woods and trees face a fight for their future.

We need to take a stand, right now. The Secretary of State must recognise that the loss of old woods and trees across the country should not be happening. Not only that, but that there needs to be confidence that what little ancient woodland remains in Northern Ireland is still undamaged. A full audit is urgently required to confirm what's left.

Why is the Woodland Trust focusing on pushing the government to protect old woods rather than planting new woodland?

Planting new woodland is very important, but at the same time we must protect the ancient and long-established woodland we have here in Northern Ireland.

Ancient woods are our richest land-based habitat for wildlife. They are home to more threatened species than any other, and represent the last fragments of the wildwood that once cloaked Northern Ireland after the last Ice Age. Just 0.08% of Northern Ireland’s landscape contains ancient woodland and this must be protected. They are selected for their local nature conservation value and they protect threatened species and habitats.

Why is the Woodland Trust targeting a minister in the UK parliament?

We are asking supporters to contact the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland because currently there is no devolved administration in Northern Ireland.

Why does Northern Ireland have so little ancient woodland, even compared to the rest of the UK?

Historically, woods have had a poor deal in Northern Ireland, with woodland clearance beginning as far back as the Neolithic period, around 6,000 years ago. With the ancient woodland inventory only being compiled in recent years, and the understanding and acceptance of the value of ancient woodland a relatively recent occurrence, limited planning protection has compounded this problem.

Today, Northern Ireland is one of the least wooded countries in Europe. Woodland represents only 8% of the total land area, compared with 13% for the UK as a whole, and 46% for Europe. Almost 60% of our woodland cover is coniferous.

Why do you want a review of the ancient woodland inventory? Why is that needed?

The Woodland Trust compiled the ancient woodland inventory in Northern Ireland ten years ago. It is important that not only are these woods protected, but that the government ensure they are not quietly lost.

Many of these ancient and long-established woods are small fragments, so susceptible to felling activity without permission. We need to be confident that ancient woodland previously recorded in the ancient woodland inventory still remains if it is to be protected effectively in the future.

Why is the Woodland Trust also concerned about the effectiveness of felling permissions?

The Northern Ireland Forestry Act 2010 granted the Forest Service powers to control felling permissions. It is important that the government continues to monitor how this is working in practice and if it is ensuring our ancient and long-established woods are being preserved for future generations.

Is there anything else I can do to help the Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland?

Yes. Unlike our castles and stately homes, ancient and other special trees in Northern Ireland are not properly protected. These trees are natural history, and play an important part in our landscape and our heritage even today. A national register will recognise and celebrate our Trees of National Special Interest for the rest of their days. You can support this call here.

What will happen at the end of the campaign? And when can we expect results?

If this is your first campaign action with the Woodland Trust, we hope this will be the first of many. As well as receiving an introductory email to the Trust, you can expect to be asked to support other targeted campaign actions when we need your help most.

What happens next in Northern Ireland depends upon the government’s response. If it announces the reviews we have asked for, our response will be different than if we receive a negative reply. Either way we will be sure to keep you updated via our monthly campaigns newsletter of all the latest happenings.

Should I expect a response to my letter from the minister, and what should I do if I receive one?

We would expect you to receive a response from the minister. How specific the response is likely to depend upon exactly what you say in the letter we have created for you to edit. In our experience the more personal the message the more likely you are to receive a personal response.

How will the Woodland Trust use my details? Will you send me information about the progress of this campaign or others I can get involved with?

The Woodland Trust will not share your details with third parties or use them for any other purpose than what you have agreed to in taking this action. If you have ticked the box saying we can contact you again, we will let you know about future threats to ancient woodland in your area and campaigns you can get involved in.

What will my donation be used for?

Any donation you make to the Woodland Trust will help us in achieving our organisational objectives of protecting ancient woodland, restoring damaged ancient woodland and planting new woodlands to help create a more resilient landscape for our natural environment. Both people and wildlife will benefit.

Is there anything else I can do? Chain myself to one of the trees, perhaps?

Policy action by these ministers is almost certain to help save many ancient and long-established woods. In Northern Ireland a review of the ancient woodland inventory will show how well current policy protection is working. In turn, looking at the effectiveness of powers vested in the Forest Service will allow for improvements to be considered.

Please help more people get involved by spreading the word - here's the link to use: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/save or make sure you share using the social buttons on the next page.

I'm standing up for ancient woods and trees


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Below is a suggested letter you can personalise to voice your concern. Your letter will go to Karen Bradley MP (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland). If the minister acts on your concerns she can protect hundreds of ancient woods and trees.

Your details

Rt Honourable
Northern Ireland Assembly