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Allerthorpe

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Chris d View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 11:26am
Hi Everyone,
 
Has anyone else been to Allerthorpe near York recently ? It's a local lowland heathland and pine forest that has a wealth of reptile and amphibians not to mention birdlife and other wildlife. I've just been today and can't believe the work that they are carrying out there.  I acknowledge that there is a problem with birch trees growing through the heathland causing shade and generally taking over the habitat but the work that is been done to combat this beggars belief. Heavy machinery, diggers etc has been brought in and vast areas have been cleared down to soil level leaving bare earth compacted down with tyre marks ! A few very small islands have been left within these bare areas but they are very few. Notices have been posted stating that the work does look drastic but heather will grow back and it has been done with the full backing of Natural England. How can they justify this destruction of habitat ? The questions that spring to mind are;
 
1)Why carry out such drastic work at such an important time of year when animals are just coming out of hibernation ?
 
2)Will the hibernation areas be damaged/ covered over. Thus preventing the reptiles emerging ? And if they do won't they be so exposed to predators ?
 
3) Would professional bodies have first been consulted that has the expertese on the impact on reptiles and such like ?
 
4) If the area has been cleared to soil level Wouldn't trees and grass be the first things that start to grow rather than heather, therefore making the problem even worse in the future ?     
 
I'm sure that more questions will spring to mind and I'll post them later with pics when I get time. Seeing is believing the mess that they have caused ! Can anyone put my mind at rest or at least confirm that what they were doing is in the long term interest of the local wildlife especially reptiles ? To me they haven't considered them at all. One of the worse areas is where last year I noted between 30 and 40 common lizards all on one footpath that has now been obliterated, leaving nothing. This adds to my opinion of the work that has been carried out in previous years. For example, prime Adder and common lizard habitat heath (near the main disecting footpath) that has been take down to ground level leaving no cover for them, Nothing has been seen in that area since. Strimming which has resulted in Adder deaths. The use of weedkiller that was sprayed in certain areas. I thought that such habitat was protected legally ?
 
I know that there is some very knowledgeable people here (you know who you are !) and I would really appreciate your opinions.
 
Regards,
 
Chris  
 
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Suzi View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suzi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 12:32pm
I am no expert let me say but we've had a lot of his in East Devon. Have they been scraping the ground to get rid of the vegetation and roots? There has been trouble here with the archeology being damaged - tumuli etc. - and I thought this method was discredited for this reason. Not all archaeological features are known and it is possible they will destroy any unknown ones. OK archaeologists are not a big hit with herpers but they have some interests in common.
Suz
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 12:47pm
Answers:

1) Because it is convenient and fits the funding scheme

2) Yes 

3) No. Well yes. Generally the owners of the land, NT, Wildlife Trusts will have been consulted. Though to describe these bodies as having expertise regarding the impact on reptiles would be rather stretching the point. So the real answer is no, they would not consult real experts because anyone who actually knew anything about reptiles would oppose the works and cause a lot of fuss as it will no doubt be detrimental to herp species. This would upset lots of people because after all they get money to do this work and it keeps them in their jobs.

4) Probably nothing will grow there for years. If anything does appear in the area as it is gardened for heather by willing volunteers it will still be useless for herpetofauna because the underlying three dimensional soil structure will have been totally lost and will take decades to recover. By that time there will probably be no herps left to recolonise.

Welcome to the 'heathland management' debate!

The whole area would have been better managed by felling the birch every 20 years or so and building log piles. That would be great for herps but unfortunately heather is the flavour of the day so all else goes to cultivate it. Reminds me more of arable farming than conservation.


Edited by GemmaJF - 11 Mar 2012 at 12:49pm
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Chris d View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris d Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 1:44pm
Thanks Jemma and Suzi,
 
That's what it reminds me of; a ploughed field. The volunteers from the wildlife trust had tried to keep on top of the young trees and at one time I was going to offer my services until I saw how mis-managed and badly led they were. They had built log piles but then as stated earlier, destroyed habitats, strimmed without due care and in addition driven down the paths compacting them making the area liabel to flood in future. It isn't just a few areas, it is acres and acres of prime reptile habitat I couldn't see how the area would be gardened and heather planted due to the size. Yes, the top growth has been scraped away leaving bare earth and nothing else.
 
Now that my worst fears have been confirmed I'm absolutely gutted. I was hoping that the people in charge of the project would know what they were doing and my mind would be put at rest by a positive answer from yourselves. Bugger, I really feel like crying !!  I thought that the law would protect herps from this mis-management, isn't it illegal to damage the areas and kill our native reptiles ? How can these idiots get away with this sort of thing and  thinking about it, can action be taken against them ?  I'm quite prepared to take it further and I'm sure that others would back me up judging from the mood of other people that I met in the forest. It seems like a whole ecosystem has been destroyed.
 
Chris 
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sussexecology View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sussexecology Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 4:05pm
Thanks for your post Chris
 
Sorry to hear about that, and i'm gutted to read your story.
 
Unfortunately, this is something that happens a lot, esp with wildlife trusts, and as widespread reptile habitat isn't protected as much as the rarer reptiles, they can do whatever they like. If there were sand lizards or smooth snakes present, then yes careful consideration would have been taken into account and that would have been compulsory.
 
It's sad i must admit but like Gemma says, if they had any knowledge of reptiles, and the optimal times of year for carrying out such work, this would never have been allowed to happen.
 
It could be regarded as reckless or deliberate killing of reptiles if they knew that reptiles were using this area.
 
This is one of the reasons we don't get involved with local conservation groups sadly.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AGILIS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 6:19pm
I think they are doing loads of un friendly destroying tons of rep habitat work on the north east Suffolk heaths right now at Dunich and Tunstall heath and of course all in the name of the RSPB tidy up brigade with eco friendly plant this is the one in the pic they are proud and boasting about as in the pic keith

Sorry about the quality of pic but the underneath heading say restoring Suffolks heathlands what a effing joke they mean destroying, Its happening this week and in future weeks to come .




Edited by AGILIS - 12 Mar 2012 at 7:43am
   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID
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sussexecology View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sussexecology Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 6:47pm
They should know better to be honest.
 
Hang on, did you say that in Suffolk heathland owned by RSPB?  Oh jeepers, yes you did Unhappy
 
If the same man is still in charge now, then he really should know better. He should know about the needs of reptiles, and the potential of reptiles being present there, as some of us here used to work in that area (no names) and ensured that the main people in charge were aware of the reptile potential etc.
 
Looks like they didn't listen, but then again nothing surprises me with these conservation groups.
 
Looks like another example of mis-management.
 
Maybe the Reptile Mitigation guidelines/best practice guidelines should include a section for conservation groups in relation to habitat management and optimal timescales for carrying out such work.
 
But this info is already available in the Reptile Habitat Management Handbook and it states in there somewhere that "as long as you are taking reasonable measures, then you are unlikely to be prosecuted for reckless killing of reptiles whilst carrying out habitat management work" (or something along those lines - will get exact words later). I don't call either of these examples "reasonable measures" as it is the wrong time of year and the methods described are not what I would call "reasonable measures".
 
 
 
 


Edited by sussexecology - 11 Mar 2012 at 6:53pm
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Chris d View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris d Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 7:59pm
Hi,
 
Thanks everyone for your postings, it is good to see that there is people who care deeply about such issues. It is shocking to find that it seems to be common practice and that such drastic measures are happening in other places. I have just completed a strong letter of complaint to the idiots at natural england demanding answers. I am so upset with this that I am determined to take it further and not just let it go.  I am going to write to the local paper and speak to others to try to drum up awareness. I'll keep you informed with the developments.
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2012 at 9:53pm
It's good you are taking a stance on this Chris and I fully support you.

As someone who has been there, you will likely get the runaround from each organisation involved. NE will say they trust the wildlife trust to know what they are doing. The wildlife trust will say NE sanctioned the work and therefore it must have been OK. They will claim no reptiles were killed and the work benefited reptiles, which is a load of old tosh and so it will go on.

The only legal recourse is to prove illegal killing of protected species. We know they will have been illegally killed and will certainly be predated if they were not, but proving it and then getting it to magistrate court will not be an easy task.

I strongly believe the only way to stop this wholesale destruction is to actually prosecute a wildlife trust or other organisation. I am very sad that it has come to that but having tried every other imaginable avenue I do not really know what is left to do.

Keep us informed, some pictures of the destruction on the forum for all to see may be of benefit too.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AGILIS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Mar 2012 at 7:40am
The thing is we all know how the pine trees have blanked out heath lands and find nothing wrong if they fell the viral trees to aid heather growth but surely this can be done in a eco friendly way,without bringing in things like bulldozers ripping the undergrowth up. ps this item can be found in this week ends East Anglian daily time it takes up 3 pages of mainly interested parties like the rspb veiws on how the heath should look even though none of them remember how it was before the lesser spotted bastard went into decline.
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