Existing conifer plantations
The blocks of conifer plantations on Dartmoor were mainly planted up in the 19th and early 20th centuries, despite significant opposition at the time, largely due to their landscape impact. During the debates about the long-term Vision for Dartmoor, the issue was raised again. Opinions were split between:
- those who supported a long-term aim to remove conifer plantations from the high moor for nature enhancement/recovery, to store carbon in restored peatlands, and to enhance landscape quality
- those in favour of conifer plantations who pointed to the benefits they bring including limiting water acidification, jobs and economic benefits, ability to absorb recreation and sequester carbon.
- A long-term ambition is to remove conifer plantations from the deep peat and restore these peatlands for nature enhancement/recovery and carbon capture. This would apply to Soussons, Fernworthy and parts of Bellever. Current woodland should be allowed to mature, and clearance should wait until the end of their natural rotation in order to maximise carbon sequestration, with the timber ideally going to construction or other end uses that lock up the carbon.
- Support the restoration of Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites to native broadleaved woodland.
- Long term ambition to remove conifer plantations where they do not fit with the landscape character or detract from its quality and scenic beauty, for example where they occupy prominent positions on the open moor. This will be guided by the Landscape Character Assessment and would include Landscape Character Types 1L: Upland Moorland with Tors; 2D: Moorland Edge slopes; and Rivers and Streams.
- Any felling or restocking operations should respect the presence of archaeological features and wildlife.
- All trees, hedges and woodlands are protected by the Forestry Act which prohibits felling trees above a threshold, without an approved sustainable management plan or felling licence. The UK Forestry Standard outlines a baseline of good practice in relation to soils, water, wildlife, carbon, recreation and landscape.