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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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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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myForest supports landscape-scale deer management

posted on October 6, 2017

Thanks to new online technology, landowners and managers now have the ability to create deer management plans and collect and share data more easily to manage and monitor deer population impacts across the landscape, helping to improve the environmental condition of woodlands.

Sylva Foundation has been working with the Deer Initiative to allow landowners and managers to create Deer Management Plans and collate annual monitoring data using the myForest Service.  The project has been jointly funded by Forestry Commission England and Natural England.

All six species of deer in Britain have increased in density and range over the last 40 years. As deer populations have increased, their impact on ground flora and the structure of woods is greater than ever before. In particular, fallow and muntjac deer have had a significant impact on lowland woodlands. Deer may benefit woodland biodiversity at low population densities, but at high densities, their browsing alters three important elements in a woodland: regeneration potential, woodland structure, and ground flora diversity and abundance. Impacts on these elements have ramifications for wildlife which depend on them for habitat and food. Species affected include populations of butterflies and other invertebrates, smaller mammals, birds, and their predators.

Deer management priority areas in England

Deer management priority areas in England

Collaborative management of deer populations at a landscape-scale is seen as critically important in helping to address issues arising from high deer populations in woodlands. Under this joint initiative, five priority areas (see map) have been identified in England where deer are having a damaging impact on important sites, such as woodlands designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. In these priority areas landowners can receive additional support from the Deer Initiative to organise collaborative action across landscapes.

Operations and Research Director for the Deer Initiative, Alastair Ward, said:

“The launch of these new online tools are an important step forward in managing deer collaboratively. The ability for users to share data (should they wish to) will also allow data to flow quickly and easily providing contemporary information on the impact of deer populations on the landscape.”

Director for Forestry and Rural Enterprise at Sylva Foundation, Paul Orsi, said:

“We are delighted to see the functionality we’ve developed in myForest being used to help with deer management. High deer populations are having a huge impact on the regeneration potential of our woodlands which affects them both environmentally and economically.  We hope the system will lead to more owners and managers creating deer management plans, and managing their deer populations”.

myForest is a web-based management tool for woodland owners and managers. Launched eight years ago it is now used by over 3,500 owners and managers covering an area of almost 56,000ha. It has a directory of almost 800 woodland and wood-based businesses. From 6th October myForest users will be able to use the system to create a Deer Management Plan, using the Deer Initiative’s template. Creating a Deer Management Plan is an important step towards managing deer populations. In addition, myForest will allow annual monitoring data to be stored, including cull numbers and deer impact data, from which users can automatically generate reports. To aid landscape-scale management, users can choose to share their information with local Deer Initiative Officers which will help them monitor deer impacts across landscapes allowing assistance to be prioritised. Although this deer management functionality has been specifically developed for use in the five priority areas it is hoped that it will be useful to users across England, and indeed in Scotland and Wales.

myForest deer management screenshot

A screenshot of the myForest deer management tools

Deer Manager in the Google play store

Deer Manager in the Google play store

As part of the work to add deer management functionality, myForest will gain its first mobile app. The myForest Deer Manager will allow stalkers to record cull data on the app which can then be submitted and registered on an owner or manager’s myForest account. Owners and managers will be able to keep up-to-date with cull information and remove the need for stalkers to submit paper records. The app is available now on Android and will soon be available on iOS.

Read more about the deer management functions and sign up for a myForest account online at www.myforest.org.uk/deer

Download Deer Manager App from the Apple Store

Download Deer Manager app from the Apple Store – coming soon

Download the Deer Manager app from the Google Play Store

Download the Deer Manager app from the Google Play Store


Notes for editors

Contacts
For media enquiries and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Paul Orsi, Director for Forestry & Rural Enterprise, Tel. 01865 408018, email paul@sylva.org.uk

Laura Southward, DI Media & Communications Officer, Tel. 01691 770888, email media@thedeerinitiative.co.uk

About the Partners

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity which works across Britain to help forests thrive, for people and for nature. It works in four work programmes: science, education, forestry and wood. www.sylva.org.uk

The Deer Initiative is a broad partnership of statutory, voluntary and private interests dedicated to ensuring the delivery of a sustainable, well-managed wild deer population in England and Wales. www.thedeerinitiative.co.uk

Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woodlands and increasing their value to society and the environment. www.forestry.gov.uk/england

Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide. www.gov.uk/government/organisations/natural-england


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Good Woods advisor uses heavy horses to transform sensitive woodland sites

posted on September 5, 2013

One of the B&Q Good Woods project advisors, Matt Waller, explains how heavy horses can help in managing sensitive woodland sites.

Matt Waller working a heavy horse in woodland

Matt Waller of Hawthorn Heavy Horses working a heavy horse in woodland, here extracting a small log.

As a woodland advisor for Good Woods, Matt is helping woodland owners to develop an initial vision for their woodland and advise how this can be achieved through the development of a woodland management plan. He’s an experienced forester, who understands the need for good woodland management in helping woods to provide us with clean air and water, good habitat for plants and wildlife, and beautiful spaces for exercise and relaxation.

To do these jobs, modern foresters typically use heavy machinery—such as tractors or forwarders. Under certain circumstances, however, these types of machines can be inappropriate. Matt Waller has faced such circumstances in the past when managing a woodland on behalf of Harlow Council in Essex, which was designated as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). He needed to cut down and extract a large oak tree as part of the woodland’s management programme but heavy machinery was banned from the site as it could put ruts in the forest floor or contaminate the area with harmful pollutants. The oak was too heavy to move by hand, so Matt began searching for alternatives.

Stacking logs rideside, extracted from woodland by a heavy horse

Stacking logs rideside, extracted from woodland by a heavy horse

After considering options as unusual as ‘an Egyptian log-rolling technique,’ he eventually settled on one of Britain’s oldest logging methods—using heavy horses. They offer a great solution that is both environmentally sound and sympathetic to local users and wildlife. Matt tracked down one of the few remaining horse-logging operators in the country and hired him for the job. As he watched the horse removing the oak while standing with his wife, Claudia—who had experience with heavy horses—he realised there was nothing stopping them from starting a horse-logging company of their own. As Matt puts it, “I knew about cutting down trees and she knew about horses.”

The Wallers began undergoing additional training in horse logging, including experience working with a professional horse logger in Finland. In 2008, they were able to start their business, Hawthorne Heavy Horses, with the help of their first major contract, the Hylands Heavy Horses Project.

A joint venture between Chelmsford City Council and Chelmsford’s Writtle Agricultural College—the Heavy Horses Project was looking to return working horses to Hylands House, a 574-acre heritage estate located on the outskirts of the Essex town. Hawthorn Heavy Horses entered an agreement to provide the project with technical expertise in exchange for stable facilities, and the first horses—two Suffolk Punches — arrived at the estate in June 2008.

Though initially the horses were used primarily as a visitor attraction, providing demonstrations and carriage rides, over the past few years they have been increasingly used for grass cutting, harrowing and timber extraction in the estate’s 70 acres of woodland. Today, timber from the estate is used for firewood or charcoal sold locally. This has a triple benefit—providing the estate with additional revenue, the Wallers with employment, and local wildlife with a better habitat. Since coppicing and felling activities began on the estate three years ago forest floors that were once overgrown with brush and shadowed by the forest canopy are now covered with thistles and bluebells.

With the help of skilled forestry professionals, like Matt Waller, Good Woods is focussing on reaching out to owners of under-managed woodlands, starting in the South East and East of England. The project is promoting the benefits of woodland management planning; help to strengthen links between communities and woodlands; build forestry skills, and develop markets for woodland products.

For more information on Hawthorn Heavy Horses visit their website

If you are a woodland owner in the southeast or east England, and would like to be considered for a free visit, please contact us (see the links below).

 


Good Woods - for people, for nature

Visit the Good Woods web page

The Good Woods project is a novel project aiming to breathe new life into UK woodlands.  The project—a joint initiative between DIY giant B&Q, sustainability charity BioRegional and forestry charity The Sylva Foundation—will revive woodlands to provide environmental, social and economic benefits. For more information contact Amy Hammond: amy@lantern.uk.com

 


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