Away from commercially managed woods and forests, many people view woodlands as wild places that have no requirement for management; a habitat that simply takes care of itself. After all, various forms of tree cover survived for millennia in the absence of human intervention and large tracts of ‘natural', unmanaged forest still exist across the world. In these areas, natural events such as storm, fire and disease, in conjunction with the impacts of large herbivores, open up the canopy, allowing light to the forest floor, enabling seeds to germinate and the woodland cycle to continue. As part of this process smaller, sometimes short-lived habitats emerge such as scrub and flower rich grassland as well as increased deadwood, habitats that many woodland species need to survive. These open habitats became more widespread as humans started clearing and managing woodland, with plants and animals adapting to this actively managed wooded landscape.
In the UK today, woodlands are often isolated, with many consisting of even aged stands and lacking a diversity of habitats. Lack of, or under-management, or even ‘too much' management can remove vital habitats and leave species clinging on to tiny glades, narrow rides or isolated veteran trees; for many the future holds only local extinction. The future of these species and of woodland as a thriving, biodiverse ecosystem, relies on appropriate management.
The United Kingdom Forestry Standard (UKFS) outlines the UK government's approach to sustainable forest management.
The UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) is an independent certification standard for verifying sustainable woodland management in the United Kingdom.
In England, having an approved management plan in place is a pre-requisite to accessing woodland grants under Defra's Countryside Stewardship scheme, as from July 2015. The production of such a plan can also be funded under Countryside Stewardship. The management plan template available on the Forestry Commission England website should be used in order to access these grants. Latest information can be found on the Forestry Commission's website: www.forestry.gov.uk
In Wales, in order to be eligible for woodland grant funding through Glastir, all woodland proposals submitted must include a woodland creation or forest management plan. Plans should be completed by an approved woodland planner and comply with the UK Forestry standard. Additionally, plans should set out the objectives for the woodland, how the woodland contributes to the Welsh Governments objectives and also show value for public money. Scheme rules and guidance can be found on the Welsh Government website.