Wildlife v. Woodlands

PUBLISHED: 09:50 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 February 2013

Grey squirrel

Grey squirrel

CLA West Midlands is for a cull of the grey squirrels and wild deer that are destroying Britain's trees.

CLA West Midlands is for a cull of the grey squirrels and wild deer that are destroying Britain's trees.

Landowners, backed by Prince Charles, are calling for a cull of grey squirrels and deer to protect the region's woodlands and save the timber industry.

The invasive grey are shredding the bark from native woodland and weakening the trees and making it much harder to grow good quality timber.

Out-of-control deer and grey squirrel populations have wreaked havoc and numbers have to be reduced. At the same time an explosion in the deer population is making it impossible to regenerate woodland as young trees are eaten by deer.

In a hard-hitting report, Seeing the Wood for the Trees: CLA Forestry and Woodland Vision and Policy, CLA warns that the timber industry, which is worth around £2 billion every year and employs tens of thousands of people, could die out completely because of the problem.

It is estimated grey squirrels cause at least £1 billion of damage to trees every year. Around two million wild deer roam the British Isles and countryside campaigners have called for the annual cull to be increased from about 350,000 to 500,000 a year.

The CLA wants the Government to make it more worthwhile to control both squirrels and deer by providing direct funding for culls in areas where the animals are out of control.

We are also calling for market incentives for the timber industry, so it is worth controlling squirrels in valuable woodland and we are asking for a Government campaign to encourage people to eat venison, so it is worthwhile killing deer in order to sell the meat, which is not currently profitable.

The report has been given the backing of HRH The Prince of Wales, Patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. In a letter he said it was "absolutely crucial to eliminate the greys which are an alien species to the UK and threaten the very existence of the reds.

"The greys are doing immense and increasing damage to hardwoods all over the country and threaten to compromise all our efforts to restore native woodlands, let alone create community forests, etc," the Prince added.

The 15-page CLA report says woodland was more important than ever for outdoor exercise and enjoyment, as a source of renewable energy through firewood and for absorbing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
However between 2003 and 2008, new planting of woods almost halved, falling from 5,100 hectares a year to 2,800 hectares a year.

Sixty per cent of woodland in Britain is under-managed, meaning squirrels and deer are damaging trees, native wildlife is absent and the area is inaccessible for walkers. CLA blames the Government for discouraging landowners by trying to "micromanage woodland" and called for market incentives instead to reinvigorate the timber industry and provide an income from forestry.

We have to make the most of this underused resource and that means dealing with deer and squirrels.

Caroline Bedell is Regional Director of The Country Land and Business Association West Midlands branch which covers Herefordshire

*Do you support the CLA's stance on culling grey squirrels and deer? Email your views to joanne.goodwin@archant.co.uk

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