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Remember dog walkers in the forest environment say Kennel Club
4:39pm Thursday 5th July 2012 in News
The Independent Panel on Forestry has released its final report, outlining their recommendations for the future of forests and woodlands in England.
The Panel was established in March 2011 to help advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England, as a response to the public uproar over the proposed sale of the public forest estate.
The Kennel Club welcomes the Independent Panel’s proposal that the public forest estate should remain in public ownership, and that this should be reflected and defined in statute. The Kennel Club also welcomes the Panel’s recognition of the health benefits associated with daily walks on the public forest estate and its positive impact on reducing costs for the NHS.
The final Report was also positive in highlighting the financial significance of the public forest estate. According to the Panel’s findings, the net annual cost of managing the public forest estate is approximately £20 million. However, the report shows that the annual returns on this investment have been estimated at £400 million in relation to the benefits that it has on the economy, nature and people.
Whilst the Kennel Club welcomes the Independent Panel’s recommendations, it feels that the report has overlooked the importance of dog walkers as the biggest year-round users of public forestry. The report highlights that the majority of the public forest estate is dedicated as Access land under the Countryside Rights of Way Act. Although this provides walkers statutory rights, dog walkers are subject to having their dogs on lead from 1 March to 31 July in all areas, including those that have no sensitivity for wildlife or livestock.
Kennel Club research, jointly funded with Natural England, has shown that off-lead access is the single most important amenity for a majority of dog owners and this will not be protected under the current proposals for nearly half of each year. The significance is highlighted in Natural England’s recently released survey, which had the support of the Forestry Commission and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which shows that dog walkers make up 51% of people visiting the countryside, green spaces and coastal locations.
Furthermore, dog walkers and sports relating to dogs, such as dog sledding, may be even more vulnerable if any new body changes policies, as already seen with local councils and their dog control orders.
Caroline Kisko, Communications Director, said: “The Kennel Club is pleased to see the Independent Panel’s report proposals for increasing access to the public forest estate.
“The government should not sell off any more public forest until the Panel’s findings have been fully digested. If however any woodland were to be sold, greater efforts should be made to legally protect exiting public amenity in perpetuity, which has not been the case in recent sales.
“The Kennel Club will continue to work to protect access for all dog owners, and to ensure that management of access to public woodland for dog owners reflects a welcoming and innovative approach.”
The Independent Panel on Forestry’s final recommendations and full report can be viewed at http://www.defra.gov.uk/forestrypanel/files/Independent-Panel-on-Forestry-Final-Report1.pdf A new edition of the Smallholder magazine has been released.
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