Inappropriate timber licence granting threatens Red Squirrels

Red Squirrel Species Champion in the Assembly, Darren Millar AM, has called on the Welsh Government to take action to stop inappropriate timber licence granting which is contributing to the decline of the red squirrel.

Calling for a Welsh Government Statement on Timber Felling Licences during yesterday’s Business Statement, Darren expressed concern that “according to the 1967 Forestry Act, timber felling licences cannot currently be refused for 'the purpose of conserving or enhancing' the flora or fauna” and urged the Welsh Government to use its powers to change this and consequently help protect the Red Squirrel.   

He said:

“It may not have escaped Members' attention that yesterday was Red Squirrel Appreciation Day across the world. You'll know that the red squirrel is a near-threatened species here in the UK and one of the things that is contributing to their decline is inappropriate timber licence granting. According to the 1967 Forestry Act, timber felling licences cannot currently be refused for, and I quote, 'the purpose of conserving or enhancing' flora or fauna.

“That obviously is a concern to many people who appreciate red squirrels and other wildlife in wooded and forestry areas, and I think it's about time that we put that right here in Wales. We have the opportunity, we have the powers, to able to do so. I would like a statement to be brought forward from the Welsh Government on the action it is taking to address this concern.”

The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans AM, told Darren that the Minister will be bringing forward a statement on forestry “as soon as possible”.

Darren added:

“Red Squirrel populations have declined since the introduction of the grey squirrel in 1876, and it is now thought that there are less than 140,000 red squirrels left in the UK. It is therefore vital that we do everything we can to protect them.”