A scheme to support vital conservation projects and commoning in the New Forest has been extended for a further year.
The Verderers of the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme was launched in 2010 as a 10-year agreement with Natural England,
Managed by the Verderers in partnership with the New Forest National Park Authority and Forestry England, it will have brought £22 million into the Forest.
Since 2010 the HLS scheme has returned 20 miles of streams which were artificially-straightened in Victorian times to drain the Forest back to their natural water courses. This improves the carbon storage in wetlands, prevents flooding and supports the habitats of rare species such as the southern damselfly and curlew. On-going repairs are taking place.
In addition, crucial funding and expert advice have been provided to hundreds of commoners to continue the traditional system of land management. It also includes a stallion scheme managing the selection and number of stallions which run on the forest each year. This helps to reduce the number of foals born each year and improves the quality of those foals.
The scheme has enabled the whole 220 square miles of the National Park to be surveyed, leading to 3,000 archaeological sites being identified and recorded, with an on-going programme to manage them.
More than 16,500 children have gained a greater understanding of the New Forest through school visits, invasive plants have been removed and healthland restored.
Lord Manners, official verderer of the New Forest, said, “The scheme works to increase the New Forest’s resilience in the face of habitat loss and the impacts of climate change. It has been a rare opportunity to conserve fragile habitats and support commoners and the rollover is welcome news as Britain has now left the EU and is working on a new domestic agricultural programme which is scheduled to come into effect in 2024.”
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