“No need for concern over East Hill tree felling,” says Forestry Commission

Woodland near East Hill. Picture: Brian Westaway

Woodland near East Hill. Picture: Brian Westaway - Credit: Brian Westaway

The organisation managing England’s forests has responded to concerns over tree felling at East Hill woods near Ottery St Mary.

Local councillor Claire Wright contacted the Forestry Commission after seeing signs in the woodland advising of plans to cut down some of the trees.

Her letter to the Forestry Commission said: "What really concerns me is that the nesting season is fast approaching and it was very apparent on my walk this morning that the birds are already starting to nest, as these woods here are alive with their song and they can be seen flitting from tree to tree, very actively searching for a mate.

"You will be well aware of the strong guidance from a range of organisations, including Natural England, on not conducting felling operations during the nesting season - and while we are officially four weeks away from its start, it seems inappropriate and unnecessary to be undertaking this work at this sensitive time."

The Herald also contacted the Forestry Commission, who responded swiftly saying there was no cause for concern about wildlife habitats, and that Ms Wright had been invited to meet their local forester at the site for a full explanation of the work.

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A spokeswoman said: "This particular operation at East Hill is not a large-scale felling, but a thinning.

"During thinning, a percentage of the trees is removed to allow the better trees to grow faster and stronger.

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"The majority of the trees will remain in place but there will be increased light on the forest floor which will allow the ground flora to thrive - in turn supporting the wider ecosystem.

"The trees are individually selected for removal and, by working at this time of year, trees with nests present can be easily identified and left standing.

"All woodland management work, including at East Hill, is carefully planned to take into account more wildlife that just birds, including mammals, rodents, invertebrates, flora and fungi.

"Many of these have rare examples at East Hill, which are there because of the decades of sensitive woodland management delivered by the Forestry Commission, and now as Forestry England.

"Birds themselves are highly visible and vocal in the landscape and often regarded as a keystone indicator of the health of the forest.

"For example, the RSPB points out that one of the best predictors of the presence of woodland birds is a woodland which is under sensitive management."

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