Legal protection for our very old and special trees
Our very oldest trees are known as ‘ancient’ or ‘veteran’ trees. They have special characteristics which make them vital for nature. Often, they are culturally important too. All ancient trees are centuries old, and the oldest are more than a thousand years old.
We already protect special places for nature in law. But three quarters of our ancient trees are found outside of legally protected wildlife sites. Instead, they are scattered through the landscape – in hedges, fields and churchyards. Among housing estates, gardens, parks and roadsides.
Many have owners who care for them. But the lack of systematic protection increases the risks they face. It’s time to apply the same principles of protection that we give to other important parts of life.
Each UK country is working on nature protection policy. This is a great opportunity to rectify the problems old trees face. Together we can send a clear message about the value nature has in our society and to future generations.
How would a new law work?
We already have laws that apply to shipwrecks and old buildings. In other countries like Poland and Italy, important trees have legal heritage or ‘monument’ status. Alongside experts, we’re analysing mechanisms like these to work out the best way to protect our living legends.
Strong, consistent policy protection for old trees in each country
Government policies should look to back up legal protection for the most important trees and protect all our oldest trees from loss and deterioration. In each UK country, governments are developing policies where there are opportunities to improve tree protection and support the management of old and important trees.
Changes to Tree Preservation Orders would help to better protect important trees, like widening the circumstances when they can be used and stronger deterrents to felling trees with Preservation Orders.
More support for land managers to care for ancient and veteran trees
Land management systems should help to support tree owners to prolong the life of old trees and the wildlife that relies on them. This includes actions like securing root protection areas around the base of trees, keeping deadwood in place and reducing any threats to the tree from its surroundings.
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