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RSPCA concern at tree felling in nesting season

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 08, 2014

Thirty acres of woodland near Ottery St Mary, Devon, is to be felled during the bird nesting season  after a commercial felling licence was granted by the Forestry Commission

Thirty acres of woodland near Ottery St Mary, Devon, is to be felled during the bird nesting season after a commercial felling licence was granted by the Forestry Commission

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The RSPCA has said it is "puzzled and disappointed" that around 30 acres of woodland in Devon is to be felled during the bird nesting season.

Around 1,300 trees are to be chopped down by the Salston Estate, in West Hill, Ottery St Mary in the next few weeks, after a commercial felling licence was granted by the Forestry Commission.

The landowners have been criticised by a local councillor and the bird charity for potentially threatening declining species at a crucial time, but the district council said that it was "straightforward" forestry management.

RSPB regional spokesman Tony Whitehead said: "We're puzzled and disappointed to learn of felling being proposed for this time of year. The RSPB isn't objecting to management of this forestry but we'd rather the felling took place outside the period when the majority of bird species could be expected to be breeding – from March up until and including August – but depending on species and weather conditions."

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Permission has been granted to landowners, the Salston Estate, to fell about 1,300 Douglas fir and larch. Some areas are to be completely cleared, with other parts being thinned as part of a commercial operation which will see douglas fir saplings replanted to replace the trees.

The Forestry Commission said timber supply cannot just be "a seasonal thing" though a serious effort has been made to identify any nests.

Independent district and county councillor for the area Claire Wright said the saplings will take decades to be of the same value to nature as the trees are. Mrs Wright, who is also Devon tree champion for the Woodland Trust, has called for the work, which is expected to start imminently, to be postponed.

She added. "It is of course, an offence to disturb nesting birds and I'm told the contractor has walked through the wood and not found any nests.

"I accept that commercial forestry is an important part of the countryside economy and I don't want to hinder that industry, but I do believe that with such large areas to be felled, that landowners should wait until the nesting season is over."

East Devon District Council said that the application was "straightforward" and represented ongoing forestry management of commercial woodland. The council's tree officer added: "The area of woodland concerned has a high visual presence but the nature of the site and the limited size of the individual sub-compartments gives no scope for amending the felling areas,"

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