Woodland Trust raises potential impact of fracking on ancient woodland

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Woodland Trust Chief Executive cites the concerns the Trust has about fracking especially to ensure that ancient woodlands are protected

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the Woodland Trust said: “The potential significant impact on ancient woodland caused by drilling and exploratory test wells for fracking, along with the associated infrastructure that may be needed to access and transport shale gas and oil, are of great concern.

“The Infrastructure Act states that fracking will not take place within 'protected areas'. However, these areas will not automatically include ancient woodland. As the Government prepares secondary legislation to define these areas, we are calling for ancient woodland to be explicitly included. With more than 600 ancient woods currently threatened by planning applications, more than the Woodland Trust has ever seen in its 40 year history, it's clear that existing planning legislation is just not sufficient to protect this irreplaceable habitat. It's therefore vital Government ensures energy companies will not be allowed to base their fracking operations in or adjacent to ancient woodland by explicitly naming it within the 'protected areas' definition.”

Fact is that the definition of the so-called 'protected areas' appears – or is it just me – rather vague and, as the Woodland Trust CEO stated, there are no provisions for “ancient woodlands” per se, unless they, somehow, fall into the 'protected areas'.

It would also appear as if government, more of than not, does not even understand what ancient woodland means and that such woodlands form intricate ecosystems where any disturbance, aside from proper management of the woods themselves, can cause irreparable damage.

Furthermore government also does not seem to understand that the 400 or more years for a wood to classify as “ancient woodland” does not mean that the trees in those woods have to be 400 year or older. More than once statements have come out from ministers and other politicians stating that those woods simply cannot qualify as ancient woodlands as there are no trees in Britain older than 200 years, or similar.

As far as fracking and ancient woodlands are concerned, they are also not the only important areas under threat. The same goes for all “public” parks and “public” open spaces and many of the large ones bordering the countryside also include quite often sites of ancient woodlands.

In the pursuit of “national energy security” the British government just puts, apparently, no concern and value on such areas that are important for people, wildlife and also local economies, such as people and businesses that depend on such woodlands for their livelihoods.

It would be better, far better, if the government of the British Isles looked towards renewables for energy security rather than destroying the countryside and polluting the environment by giving the go ahead to fracking companies. But, obviously, there are no backhanders to be had from renewable energy operations and operators.

Once it was said about the US government, for instance, that it was in bed with the oil industry and then it became the oil industry through the two Bush Presidents. The UK government definitely is in bed with the oil and gas sector and has now added the fracking sector to its bedfellows.

The problem in all of this is capitalism for capitalism cares only about profit that it can extract from Nature, and from people, and about nothing else. The capitalists seem to think that they can exploit the Planet ad infinitum and that there will be resources, of one kind or the other, for ever and as long as the cash registers are ringing they are happy though never content.

And as far as “national energy security” is concerned we just cannot, but then I am preaching to the choir here, I am sure, continue to carry on with it. Even so-called mainstream media have come out in favor of the campaign “Leave it in the ground” and that includes coal, oil and gas, in whichever form. The British government does not seem to get the message though, it would appear. And no, voting in another lot will not make on iota of a difference either. We, the people, have to force the change that we want to see, but first we will have to begin to be the change.

© 2015