ROGRESS (Promotion and Guidance for Recreation on .. (PROGRESS)
ROGRESS (Promotion and Guidance for Recreation on Ecologically Sensitive Sites)
The New Forest and Fontainebleau Forest are two of the largest state-owned woodland sites in the NWE. As designated Natura 2000 sites (under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives), the forests face considerable pressure in providing informal outdoor leisure amenities to surrounding communities and visitors. The main objective of this project, Promotion and Guidance for Recreation on Ecologically Sensitive Sites – which involves the UKs Forestry Commission, the French Office National des Fôrets, as well as a research institute, countryside agency and tourism bodies from England, Scotland, France and the Netherlands - is to reconcile the high level of demand for woodland recreation with wildlife conservation in two major NWE forests, and to integrate the recreation strategies within the wider regional planning framework through cross-sectoral co-operation. PROGRESS aims to generate sustainable solutions to the issues of i) ecology, by adapting management of such sites to reconcile conservation and cultural heritage with leisure activities and tourism; ii) communication, by effectively transmitting focused environmental awareness to local communities and visitors; iii) sustainability, by securing resources and partnerships for sustainable recreation management; and iv) wider European transnationality, by gaining from other European examples and developing mechanisms of environmental sustainability for successful partnerships between land managers and leisure operators in the NWE zone and across Europe, to the accession countries. Examples of actions to be undertaken include a field survey, to show how different visitor patterns will affect the sustainability of wildlife populations and vegetation, with Alterra models, MASOOR and METAPHOR; and a volunteer ranger programme, to involve local communities and develop awareness. Recreation plans will be drawn up on the basis of an innovative data modelling system and widespread consultation with various stakeholders. A range of small investments in networks of forest trails and access point changes will be aimed at promoting alternative recreation and re-directing users away from sensitive zones in need of protection. PROGRESS provides a transnational vehicle for data collection and mapping, the formulation and transfer of best practice, staff exchanges and joint communication activities. Achievements: The project was particularly successful in reaching the general public and involving them in various aspects and thought processes. The project was also successful in developing and improving relationships with local user groups and this will work for the future, but this can slow down the decision process. It also developed local working partnerships(e.g. FC and NHS) that have given great benefit to certain groups of the general public. It has also managed to protect sensitive habitats in both forests and change the approach to this sort of activity for the future. This has involved a different approach to paths and signage in particular. It also developed management tools that will feature strongly in future forest design management.Computer modelling was extensively used and was instrumental in getting public acceptance of various proposals, some controversial, and will certainly be used more widely in future consultation with local user groups and the public. Local partnership working was used very successfully to develop walks for people with mental health issues and this is being widely promoted to local doctors and health groups. This resulted when the original plan to develop led walks with the local council coming to nothing. Computer-based lessons about sustainable forestry were developed for free nation-wide release to primary schools. This was due to the fact that trying to do further direct liaison with local schools failed to happen, as they did not have the time to commit. ONF developed a Foret Patrimoine to develop better use of local groups in terms of volunteer work and his is being adopted by ONF nationally for all of their forests. ONF have also developed special codes for local user groups and this has meant working very closely with these groups. Vast amounts of data about the use of the forests was collected by the project, including a lot of surveys using GPS devices, and this will help future management plans, and indeed a team has been set up to review the best use of this data.
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