Annual Audit of UKFCG by Soil Association

Dates for the audit have been set for the two-week period commencing 17th May, twelve forests have been selected and the managers of the forests have been contacted. As the Nation eases out of lockdown, this year will be a ‘Hybrid audit’. This means the audit will include some forest inspections while the remaining forests will be audited remotely by Zoom conference calls with the Soil Association auditor. The remote audit conducted by Soil Association in 2020 entailed sending a range of forest plan and other documents in advance to reduce the time spent on conference calls.

The May date puts pressure on information gathering undertaken by UKFCG each year, this is an essential aspect of the Soil Association audit which requires us to provide summaries of timber sales, chemical and fertiliser use, deer cull, accidents and complaints over the previous year. The annual report spreadsheet is attached along with this newsletter, we ask for your co-operation in completing and returning the report by the end of April at the latest.


FISA 806 Welfare Guide

This was introduced with an 18-month review period, seeking feedback on the guidance from industry. The review end (June 2021) is fast approaching, and we would like to remind members that  FISA welcomes your feedback or comments on the subject of Welfare Provision, please email these to for the attention of the Worksite Management Working Group.

We would also like to remind you that during the period that the FISA Welfare Provision Guide has been in circulation, two Bulletins have been issued by FISA which focussed on earlier received feedback – Welfare Provision Additional Advice April 2020 and FISA 806 Feedback August 2020. View FISA 806 and the Bulletins here.


Climate Change

[UKWAS criterion 4.4, 4.5 and 2.5]

Forest Research has launched the first in a series of factsheets exploring the effects of climate change on our trees and woodlands. Aimed at practitioners, the factsheets showcase the breadth of research carried out by Forest Research, sometimes over decades, demonstrating how trees and forests are facing the challenges of climate change, and offering actionable insights into how trees and woodlands can help mitigate the effects of climate change.

The first four factsheets are: [Place your cursor over the title, Ctrl + Click to follow link]

Future editions in the series will be published throughout 2021.


Releasing pheasants and partridges

UKWAS 4.9.1

Forest managers often have no direct control over game shoots which are active in certified forests. It is important that all managers in this situation engage with owners and/or shoot managers/syndicate tenants to avoid conflicts with certification requirements. Release pens will always be inspected during audits to ensure there is no environmental damage arising from numbers of birds present – make sure you know where the pens are located.  A copy of relevant permissions / leases should be held by the forest manager (or made available on request), this is one of the verifiers for UKWAS 4.9.1. and inspection of the agreement terms may be required by an auditor.  Other common subjects giving rise to non-conformity are: Pesticides use, chainsaw use and insurances.  Documentation which should be available to the forest manager and certification auditors includes: completed ESRA for pesticide use, certificates of competence, in-date insurances, risk assessments and emergency plans.  Forest managers should also include monitoring of third party activities (shoot syndicates) in the forest monitoring plan.

The Code of Good Shooting Practice and British Game Alliance’s Assurance Scheme Standards set a guideline for releasing birds which ensure the environment is not damaged.

  • Shoots should refer to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust guidelines for sustainable game bird releasing.
  • These provide a rule of thumb, advising that in order to avoid damage to habitat, in most situations, shoots should avoid releasing more than 1,000 pheasants per hectare of pen, and more than 700 per hectare of pen in ancient semi-natural woodland. Pheasant release pens should not, in total, take up more than about one third of the woodland area on the shoot.
  • Where shoots exceed the recommended densities, they should be able to demonstrate that their particular circumstances and management regime (for example, by limiting the period of time birds are in release pens) does not significantly damage woodland flora and fauna.
  • Partridge release pens should be sited in cover crops on arable or in improved grassland, rather than on seminatural or unimproved habitats.

See also BASC’s advice on permission for shooting on SSSIs and other protected sites.

A public consultation will begin soon on Defra’s proposals for the release of pheasants and red-legged partridge in and around EU-recognised conservation sites in England.


Priority Species

UKWAS 2.4.4.

shall not be harvested or controlled without the consent of the relevant statutory nature conservation and countryside agency.

From a game management perspective this includes: Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Grey Partridge Capercaillie, Brown Hare and Mountain Hare.

UKWAS verifiers for this section include monitoring records, species inventories.

Potentially a highly sensitive subject, forest managers should ascertain whether they can access this information if requested during certification audits.