UK: Cutting down centuries old trees in order to restore the natural environment

Woodland near Crosby-on-Eden that includes 150-year-old oak trees and
is home to red squirrels could be felled in the name of nature
conservation. Natural England wants to cut down 45 oaks and 727 Scots
pines at White Moss, a designated site of special scientific interest
north of the A689 and west of Carlisle Airport. The 94-acre plot is
mostly lowland raised bog. Getting rid of the trees should allow it to
return to its natural state. But the proposal has alarmed some nearby

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James Bainbridge, a Carlisle city councillor for the area, said: “The
proposals ignore the benefits that having Scots pine on the site have
brought to the diversity of the area. “White Moss is home to roe deer
and red squirrels. The plans to fell the trees risks the scattering of
those species.” Ray Bloxham, a Conservative councillor for Longtown
and Rockcliffe, shares that view. He added: “The felling could be done
in a phased programme rather than all at once. I’m fed up with people
in authority doing things without bothering to consult. “They make
decisions without consulting local people or telling them why.”

Natural England has applied to the Forestry Commission for a felling
licence. The consultation on its application closed on Monday but the
outcome is not yet known. Susan Clark, a spokeswoman for Natural
England, defended its proposals. She said: “The felling of trees is
part of a programme of bog/lowland raised mire restoration and is in
line with the Government’s target that 95 per cent of our SSSIs should
be in a favourable condition by 2010. “Restoration involves the
removal of trees, which are causing the bog to dry out, followed by
blocking ditches to hold rainwater on the bog surface and prevent
rapid run-off after rainfall events.”

She said the work would be timed to minimise disturbance to wildlife, avoiding the breeding season for birds and red squirrels, and would probably start in October. Phasing it was not practical and there would be “little impact” on red squirrels. She added: “White Moss is too small to support more than a transient population. It is the view of experts that small pine-rich sites such as White Moss could not act as long-term refuges for red squirrels.” Cumbria Wildlife Trust has safeguarded a wildlife haven at Orton Moss, near Carlisle. The purchase of additional land at the SSSI has increased the trust’s stake and will help preserve this mossland.

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Comments (4)

Eliza OlsonFebruary 25th, 2009 at 9:19 am

I’d have to know more about the Moss. Trees are tricky. If there are too many of them, they change the ecology by adding nutrients to the bog. I would suggest before cutting the trees, start blocking ditches, etc. The raised water level will take care of many of them in time.

When I was in Ireland and travelling through the countryside, I would look up and see where peatlands had slid down the hill–there was nothing there to hold the peat in place when there were huge downpours after a dry summer.

Trees in that instance may have slowed the descent of the peat down the hill.

We have a tree challenge in Burns Bog as well. The main trees are birch and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). This is because before white men interferred with the bog, First Nations used to burn it off every 80 years to get rid of the trees. That is not practical when the Bog is surrounded by development the way it is. Smoke and ashe from a Burns Bog fire can be
smelled 50 miles or more away.

Saying the squirrels will go elsewhere is kind of like our current government that is putting habitat for the Southern Red-backed vole under piles of sand for preloading. These little furry creatures were thought extirpated from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia as the last time they were seen before 1999 was about 50 years ago and 20 miles away at the
Spirit Park near the University of British Columbia.

I hope that the good people trying to rehabilitate the area don’t create a different problem while trying to solve another.

Letter to EditorMarch 1st, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Felling trees to create a swamp will not relieve flooding problem

Last updated 09:28, Friday, 27 February 2009

It appalls me what Natural England will do to justify spending public money.

The article detailing a proposal to fell over 700 trees in a woodland near Crosby-on-Eden (The Cumberland News, February 20), beggars belief.

To block up the drains and raise the water level on this area will not only displace the deer, red squirrels, adders, etc but result in a semi-sterile swamp with no extra water-holding capability to relieve the flooding which is becoming a hazard in this and many other parts of the country.

I don’t know who the “experts” were who were consulted on red squirrel habitats, but to say that they cannot survive on a 94-acre woodland shows a distinct lack of first-hand experience of these animals.

They can and will live in much smaller habitats providing the conditions are suitable and not greatly disrupted.

These areas in their current state are capable of absorbing vast quantities of water from heavy rainfall and releasing the water slowly, eliminating the heavy run-off and flooding many of us dread.

If the drains are blocked and the area becomes saturated, it will be incapable of absorbing rainfall. The result is instant run-off and flash flooding.

More of these bogs, especially in upper river catchment areas, should be allowed to dry out between rain storms and they will then act as sponges during heavy rainfall periods.

So let’s look at the natural benefits already there instead of a way to waste huge amounts of public money to achieve spurious political targets. Surely in the current economic climate there are better ways to spend this money?

Glad to see we have some councillors with common-sense opposing what is nothing more than national vandalism.


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Nicol McNairMarch 10th, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I thought that there was a law passed a few years ago that because trees were good for the enviroment and the eco system That when and if you were given permission to cut a tree down you had to plant another one somewhere in the area to compensate for it

JoJoJune 16th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

i agree, no cutting live healthy tress down 3 no reason anywhere!

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