Summer 2000

Integrating local community concerns and the needs of wildlife conservation

The management of Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve

Article by Rob Wolstenholme, Site Manager and Lynne Collins, Community Officer at English Nature Ainsdale.

Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve between Formby and Ainsdale is a spectacular international asset that is also greatly valued by the community as an important part of their local heritage. Integrating the needs of both the community and wildlife is paramount.

In the past few years, local people have raised concerns about site management methods that English Nature have used to deliver the Government's international obligations under the European Habitats Directive. This involved the removal of selected areas of pine plantation to return open dunes to their natural state.

In 1999, in the light of these concerns, English Nature put a hold on any further extension to the dune restoration programme. This is with effect until at least 2001. To help inform the way forward an independent review of the dune restoration project so far is being carried out. This is looking at the effects of the removal of the areas of pine wood, the dune restoration work, and the effects on plants and animals, water levels, landscape and amenity.

In addition, English Nature is keen to see the wise and sustainable management of the pinewood habitat and the safeguard of the red squirrel population. The mature pine on the Sefton Coast is an important refuge for red squirrels and their conservation is a primary objective of this National Nature Reserve. Among imminent actions, English Nature is signing up to a Sefton Coast Forest Plan, along with other land managers. It will set out what woodland management will happen, and where, on the coast for the next 20 years. The Forest Plan process provides for the concerns and interests of the local community to be taken into account.

The area is not just a nature reserve, but also a valuable landscape area and a vital amenity for the local community The future of wildlife and people must go together, so community support, involvement, and co-operation is vital. The future management of the Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve will be informed by the outcome of the independent review, the Forest Plan, and the discussions we will continue to have with the local community. The outcomes of the review and the Forest Plan will be publicly available.

The protection and management of such a large area with so many rare and beautiful plants, animals, and landscapes, as well as integrating the concerns of visitors and the local community, is without doubt an important yet complicated task. To help us do this we are determined that we will make time to listen and exchange views with all sections of the local community