There has been considerable social media debate following the broadcast of what I would charitably call a poorly researched segment on the ‘over-grazing’ of the New Forest. While this did touch on an important issue, the effect of the Basic Payments System on the economics of Commoning, it did so in a way that made erroneous claims and sought to attribute direct relationships where none have been proven. While giving considerable airtime to Chris Packham to rehash his personal views, opposing views from established experts and academics (of which there are many), were not featured.
I am sure that this important discussion will continue and it is my hope that, once informed opinions are heard, a future bespoke subsidy system will be developed for the New Forest post Brexit, something that the Commoners Defence Association, National Park Authority and Verderers have been working on in discussions with DEFRA for some time.
There are many threats to the sustainability of the New Forest in the future, recreational pressure, climate change and future funding for management being three, but if I have any concern about Commoning it is ensuring its long-term viability and that young Commoners have access to holdings and housing, not a short-term increase in depastured stock.
The following statements, issued by the Forestry Commission and Verderers, provide more information on actual depastured stock levels and their impact on the New Forest.