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Sylva launches premium account for myForest

posted on January 14, 2019

A new premium account has been launched for Sylva’s flagship woodland management online software myForest. Users will have access to new tools, while income from regular subscriptions will help the charity invest further in the technology.

Since its launch in 2009, Sylva Foundation’s myForest web tool has been growing steadily, just like the woodlands it exists to support. The environmental charity has relied on word-of-mouth and a strong reputation for the increasing popularity of its online tools and resources supporting woodland management.

myForest is used by thousands of woodland owners, managers and educators, to map and manage more than 75,000ha of woodland across Britain. Its development has been supported in part by charitable trusts, government bodies, corporations, and individual donors. However, myForest requires regular funding to support maintenance and development, and the Sylva Foundation receives frequent requests for new features.

Behind the scenes, thanks to core support from The Dulverton Trust, the Sylva Foundation has been hard at work developing a range of additional premium-level tools which it now hopes some woodland owners and managers will opt to use. Paul Orsi from Sylva Foundation, who manages myForest, explained:

“We have introduced these additional tools in response to demands by users. We have kept the costs as low as possible, at only £24/year for a Woodland Owner account and £120/year for an Agent account. We hope that some owners, managers, and agents, will subscribe to a premium account. The income generated will support ongoing maintenance and allow us to invest further in the future of myForest.”

myForest feature table

myForest feature table

The most significant addition to the service, accessed via the new premium account, is access to digital mapping from the Ordnance Survey (note that additional costs apply dependent on usage). This is likely to be popular with those requiring maps for formal applications, or where existing aerial mapping imagery is poor.

myForest Woodland Manager showing OS background

myForest Woodland Manager showing OS background

With a myForest premium account you can now view data layers such as ancient woodland

With a myForest premium account you can now view data layers such as ancient woodland

A new measuring tool is just one of the new features we have added to myForest through a premium account

A new measuring tool is just one of the new features we have added to myForest through a premium account

Alongside OS mapping, various other options are on offer, including: advanced printing, overlaying of data layers such as ancient woodland boundaries, plus a range of reports such as summary reports for species and age-class distributions.

A myForest premium account allows you to download automatically generated reports for your woodland

A myForest premium account allows you to download automatically generated reports for your woodland

It is also possible to export a work programme to a spreadsheet so that it can be taken into the field or shared with others.

More features will be added to premium accounts over time and the charity will be developing a myForest mobile app by the end of the year.

www.myforest.org.uk


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Support for collaborative woodland management

posted on December 7, 2018

From today, users of our myForest service can query resource information across multiple properties which can help support collaborative woodland management.

Suited equally to woodland co-operatives or managers with multiple clients, the new functionality aims to improve efficiency by enhancing collaboration, with the main outcomes that more woodlands are managed well, and more home-grown timber reaches the market.

Most of Britain’s large plantation forests are managed as part of a crop rotation, but there are many smaller woodlands across the country, often part of mixed farms and estates under separate ownership, which are not being managed as costs can be prohibitive at small scales.

There can be distinct opportunities from scaling-up, such as: combining timber volumes to meet a new market demand; mixing timber from multiple small parcels to reduce haulage costs; or by undertaking similar operations at the same time of year to reduce costs. However, it can be complicated for agents managing data between clients, or for a co-operative project knowing enough about the resources managed by different members.

The new collaborative woodland management functionality in myForest aims to overcome these barriers by allowing users to query information across multiple clients/members. This includes:

  • search for species plus associated data (e.g. height, stem diameter, quality) across all properties/clients/members.
  • export sub-compartment information from these searchers into Excel to help with data management and manipulation.
  • browse sub-compartment locations on a map to view distances and conditions between different properties.
  • import data from new clients already on myForest, including mapping and inventory data.
  • search for areas with designations, such as SSSIs.
  • restrict searches to sites with felling licence applications.

The project arose thanks to collaboration with the Argyll Small Wood Coop. The Coop were working hard to provide their members with management plans, but were looking for a way of being able to query the information they had collected across their membership base to assess opportunities for collaborative management and marketing.

Here’s a real-life example of how the functionality can work for a Coop:

  1. Coop member Jamie Smith had a small parcel of oak on his farm that the Coop was trying to market for him.  There was a possible market available but because of the small volume of the parcel, haulage costs would make the operation uneconomic.
  2. The Coop searched its member database using the collaborative woodland management functionality on myForest to find out if there are any other Coop members with trees of the right specification that could make the overall offering more profitable.
  3. The Coop coordinator finds that Eleanor Davis has oak of a similar size on her farm.  They agree to market jointly both Jamie and Eleanor’s oak.
  4. Jamie and Eleanor’s woodlands entered active management and the woodland operations became profitable.

Equally the tool could work in the same way for woodland managers with multiple clients.

Sylva Foundation worked closely with Argyll Small Woods Coop and Wyre Community Land Trust to test and improve the functionality. Project funding was provided by Forestry Commission Scotland and Making Local Woods Work, together with core funding support from The Dulverton Trust.

As with all new developments in myForest we reply on feedback from the myForest community to make improvements. Please feel free to contact us with your feedback on this and any other aspect of myForest.


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Working together to adapt to a changing climate

posted on September 20, 2018

Actions to address significant gaps in forestry policy, research and practice are necessary to deal with the unprecedented pace and scale of environmental change, say forestry organisations launching a new action plan today at APF Exhibition, the UK’s largest forestry show.

Action plan for climate change adaptation of forests, woods and trees in England

Action plan for climate change adaptation of forests, woods and trees in England

Climate change is threatening the health of trees and woods and requires a co-ordinated response to help them adapt and become resilient to its current and projected impacts. A significant group of public and private organisations have identified 13 priority actions and pledged to work together on them over the next five years.

The “Action plan for climate change adaptation of forests, woods and trees in England” was prepared by the Forestry Climate Change Working Group (FCCWG), which represented the 35 organisations who signed a Forestry Climate Change Accord in 2015. Sylva Foundation took a lead role in supporting the creation of the Climate Change Accord, later running workshops which helped to develop the action plan, and then the drafting of the plan itself. Much of the evidence for the action plan arose from recent British Woodland Surveys, particularly BWS2015, which rely on the goodwill of thousands of private woodland owners, foresters and businesses, who shared information about their awareness, actions, and aspirations.

The 13 priority actions address major gaps in current forestry policy, research and practice and are the result of a rigorous process of consultation carried out over the last three years, and are consistent with Defra’s Tree Health Resilience Strategy published earlier this year. The plan also recognises that, in the face of climate change, many traditional forest and woodland management practices need to be revised. Some of the gaps identified include: lack of woodland management by owners; insufficient diversity of planting stock from nurseries; limited uptake of silvicultural practices which limit risk; and, the need for better education and information.

Launching the plan at the APF Exhibition on behalf of the FCCWG, Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of Forestry Commission England said:

Our forests, woodlands and trees are already facing unprecedented challenges from environmental change and the changes will continue. The impacts of this will alter the ecology, the appearance and the management needs of these woods and forests.  We have to adapt because if we do not the costs will be paid by all of us for generations to come. That is why I welcome the launch of this plan to drive forward a truly collaborative response by the forestry sector. It is a remarkable achievement that such a wide range of organisations have been able to agree actions that should ensure our legacy will be of woodlands resilient to the changes they face.

Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, commented:

“So much of our work at Sylva is about creating and using evidence to help others make wise decisions about the future of our trees and woodlands. At a strategic level, little of this counts unless there is significant agreement among all stakeholders about what actions should be taken and by who. It has been a privilege to have supported, and witnessed, the coming together of the forestry sector in such an unprecedented way. We hope the resulting action plan will support positive change in policy, practice, and research over the coming five years and beyond.

 Download the Action Plan (pdf)


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Natural Flood Management ‘reverse’ auction tool piloted

posted on September 19, 2018

During three weeks over the summer, Sylva Foundation helped deliver a unique ‘reverse’ auction to support a range of natural flood management measures in Somerset.

Building on the technologies developed with the University of Oxford’s Long Term Ecology Lab (EU LIFE+ project NaturEtrade), the online auction tool allowed landowners to bid for funding to help deliver a selection of Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures: Maize Management; Grassland Sub-Soiling; Leaky Structures (leaky dams); Hedge Planting; Soil Bunds and Leaky Ponds, and; Hedge Planting on Bunds.

Landowners could select locations on their farm in which they could implement these measures, and the tool enabled them to bid for an amount of funding they considered necessary to deliver these. The lowest, or most competitive, bids – hence a ‘reverse’ auction – would receive funding from Somerset Rivers Authority.

NFM area

The Hills to Levels project area in Somerset, as shown on the Naturetrade NFM website

How did the auction work?

The auction allowed landowners to bid for funding to construct and maintain one, or multiple, NFM measures on their land. To do this, each user could bid for an amount of funding for the bundle of measures they wished to implement. The tool indicated whether their bid was ‘selected’, which meant that it would currently qualify for funding. This could change if other users submitted lower bids (i.e. will implement measures for less money). If a user’s bid changed from ‘selected’ to ‘unselected’, they would be notified via email, and they could then lower their bid if they wished to do so.

NFM dashboard

A screenshot of the dashboard page of the auction website (with dummy data) used by funders to manage the auction.

 

Funding to develop the technology was provided by the Environment Agency, and support for the auction itself was given by the Farm Wildlife Advisory Group, which liaised with landowners on the ground.

Outcomes from the pilot run over the summer are currently being assessed by Environment Agency and partners. Emma Claydon of Environment Agency, said:

“This summer’s pilot online ‘reverse’ auction was a fascinating first attempt at exploring this novel approach to achieving environmental outcomes as well as better value for public money. We will be analysing the outcomes to see how the tool can be improved for future uses.”

Although the auction is now closed, the website is still live, and contains further information about the auction, including FAQs: https://nfmea.sylva.org.uk

 


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New Forestry Commission England Management Plan template available on myForest

posted on August 15, 2018

The updated Forestry Commission England Management Planning template is now available on myForest.  The update includes changes to the UK Forestry Standard criteria for approving a plan as well as additions to the Woodland Protection section.

FCE management plan template 2018

FCE management plan template 2018

Updates have also been made to the Plan of Operations including the requirement to specify the type of restocking following a felling operation.


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FSC UK Small Woods Project launched

posted on June 11, 2018

We wrote recently about how data collected from the British Woodlands Survey 2017 was informing development of the Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) for small woodland owners. Today, FSC UK has launched the Small Woods Project. If you’re an owner of a small woodland you may be able to help.

What do stakeholders think of FSC?

In an article published today, Owen Davies from FSC UK wrote:

To date, FSC has not been as successful as we would like in encouraging small woodland owners to seek certification. Owners have told us that their reluctance is due to too much paperwork, complex standard requirements, and high costs. With this initiative we aim to make certification lighter on paperwork, simpler, and cheaper, while still maintaining the credibility that stakeholders expect from FSC, which we hope to achieve through a careful assessment of risks and opportunities for positive change.

Let’s be clear; we intend to be really radical, and to test the limits of the FSC system. We may not end up with a standard that can be used for FSC forest management certification in the UK. But what we learn along the way about just how far we can push risk-based approaches to certification of small woodlands will be of immense value not just in the UK but around the world.

To learn more, you can read a more technical introduction to the project. If you’re really keen and think you have what it takes to be part of the group developing the standard, you can read the full, formal terms of reference.

Read the full article


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What do stakeholders think of FSC?

posted on June 1, 2018

As part of British Woodlands Survey 2017 — whose report was published earlier this year — we were commissioned by FSC UK to ask stakeholders their views about forest certification. We were pleased to see FSC UK publish a summary of the results in the May/June edition of Forest Matters.

FSC-article-2018

FSC UK article in Forest Matters: click to read full article online

Forest Standards Manager of FSC UK, Dr Owen Davies, wrote:

“To attract more woodland owners into certification, it seems that we need to reduce paperwork, simplify standard requirements, and reduce costs, in that order. Of course, these factors are to some degree inter-related. As part of our ongoing work to try to make certification more accessible for smaller woodland owners, and with the support of FSC International’s New Approaches project, FSC UK will shortly be embarking on a project to develop and forest test a radically new standard specifically tailored to such woodlands. We intend to really push the boat out and try something that has never been tried before within the FSC system. While the result may not gain universal acceptance, we hope that the lessons learned will be valuable for FSC not just in the UK but around the world.”

A call will soon go out for members of a standard development group and a consultative forum for this project. Keep an eye on the FSC UK website for updates.


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myForest updated

posted on May 24, 2018

We have launched a new version of myForest, used currently by 4,229 people to map and manage 68,744ha of woodland across the UK. This update is the first stage towards the launch of myForest Prime, which will include enhanced functionality and access to Ordnance Survey Mapping.

The Woodland Manager suite of tools in myForest provides easy to use tools for woodland mapping and management. Regular users will notice several differences and improvements:

The map editor has received a significant upgrade. This includes the ability to produce maps at regular scales (in fact, at any scale) as well as an improved interface, labelling functions and output. Watch our new introductory video tutorial below.

The user account homepage has been streamlined so you can update all your account settings in one place. This includes accessing Deer Management functions and communication preferences.

Finally, updates to our Privacy Notice and Website Terms to make it easier for you to understand what information we collect and why we collect it.

Read more about myForest [if you are already logged in this link will take you to a page with more videos].

myForest updated May 2018

myForest updated May 2018


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Health and Harmony – what does the future of the environment look like to you?

posted on May 1, 2018

The deadline of 8th May is fast approaching for responses to government’s public consultation about the future for food, farming, and the environment. We urge everyone with an interest in trees, woodlands, and forestry to respond.

Defra 25-yr plan

Defra 25-yr plan

Following the launch of Defra’s 25-year plan for the environment, this public consultation is seen as critically important element in shaping government plans for the environment. Strategies, policies and funding mechanisms are being designed to account for life after Brexit and the Common Agriculture Policy. Meanwhile, Defra is increasingly focussed on ‘public money for public good’.

Anyone with an interest in trees, woodlands, forestry, and timber will soon realise that the public consultation is significantly skewed towards farming and food production. We encourage everyone with an arboricultural and silvicultural interest to have their say. Whilst you are steered towards completing an online questionnaire, which can be found at https://consult.defra.gov.uk/farming/future-of-farming, given the bias towards farming you may find it more rewarding to write a separate response outlining your views. Government has made it clear that it is prepared to receive a standalone response, or alternatively you could write a letter to append to your questionnaire response, which should be emailed to agricultureconsultation@defra.gsi.gov.uk .

If you would like to back-up some of your personal views with the latest evidence among the woodland and forestry sector, you may want to read the latest British Woodlands Survey report, which contains a wealth of facts and figures on priorities and issues that hundreds of respondents provided last year, see www.sylva.org/bws. If you are a member of Confor, Royal Forestry Society, Small Woods, Institute of Chartered Foresters, CLA, and others, if may be worth checking their membership pages for advice on key issues these bodies would you like you to raise.

Deadline for responses is 11:45am on 8th May.


Read more about the consultation, including various appendices, by visiting:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-for-food-farming-and-the-environment


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BWS2017 report published

posted on March 9, 2018

We are pleased to announce the publication of the British Woodlands Survey 2017 report.

We adopted a ‘360-degree’ research method for British Woodlands Survey 2017, whereby stakeholders were engaged in designing the survey, providing data, and reviewing outcomes. Forty-eight workshop delegates ranked priority themes provided by 221 respondents in an initial survey, for UK countries: England, Scotland and Wales. Overall, Societal attitudes ranked highest, followed by Climate change adaptation, and Pests and diseases. Within countries, additional top-ranking themes included: for England, Tree Planting and Timber Production; for Wales, Private woodland owner engagement; and for Scotland; Profitability and Natural capital.

The main survey, based on these themes, was conducted online during summer 2017. Responses were received from 1,630 people, distributed across the UK. The majority of respondents (660) were private woodland owners, who together with 180 forestry agents, controlled 3,629 woodland properties covering 645,370 hectares. The response represented 28% of all private sector woodland area in the UK (2.30Mha), and one-fifth of the total UK woodland area (3.17Mha).

Results

BWS2017 infographic - click to download

BWS2017 infographic

BWS2017 report - free download

BWS2017 report – click to download

Some headlines

  • Top motivation for woodland owners is protecting and improving nature.
  • Most owners think that society values woodland most for its wildlife.
  • Many in the sector want to engage more in developing policy but feel their voices are not heard.
  • There is enthusiasm for diversifying tree species to support biodiversity but concerns among some about impacts on timber yields.
  • Among a small subset of respondents (230) there would potentially be enough land made available over the next five years which would lead to a 1% increase in the UK’s woodland cover.

Download the report here

 


About the British Woodlands Survey

The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about Britain’s woodlands and those who care for them. The BWS aims to provide an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed. BWS2017 is the first repeat survey in a five-year cycle of major surveys intended to explore broad themes (the first survey taking place in 2012). In the intervening years two national surveys explored specific themes. The BWS is co-ordinated by Sylva Foundation. Read more: www.sylva.org.uk/bws

BWS2017 was led by researchers from Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and Woodland Trust. Funding was provided by Scottish Forestry Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, and Woodland Trust.

BWS2017 was led by researchers from Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and Woodland Trust. Funding was provided by Scottish Forestry Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, and Woodland Trust.

Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., Ambrose-Oji, B., Edwards, D., O’Brien, L., Tansey, C., and Townsend, M. (2018). Shaping the future of forestry: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2017. 34pp. www.sylva.org.uk/bws


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