Hi, I’m Mark Sumner and I work in DIO’s Environmental Support and Compliance Team as the Access and Recreation Advisor, based in Salisbury Plain. Today, I’ll be blogging about the work DIO has done to protect our most important wildlife site, the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA).
In January 2018, a joint access agreement was signed with Natural England to allow wardens from the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership access to MOD land that falls within the SPA. This agreement formed the Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Service Project, known as SAMMs.
The SAMMs project is fundamental to progressive, sustainable management of the SPAs and helps protect the sites by promoting responsible access. The area covered by the SAMMs project includes several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is also important for nature conservation and has a population of rare breeding bird species including the Dartford warbler, woodlark and nightjar.
DIO joined forces with the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership wardens to manage access to sensitive habitats and wildlife in the SPA. Joining forces has allowed Natural England and the MOD to work together to sustainably manage the Defence Estate and protect it from the impact of development nearby. It also allows us to effectively monitor the SPA and demonstrates our commitment to managing public access and conservation.
The wardens help to make the public aware of the dangers associated with visiting military training areas and minimise the risk to everyone visiting and working on the SPA. They also engage with visitors and the local community to encourage responsible behaviour, provide information on the use of the land for military training as well as raise awareness of the ecological sensitivity of the heathland.
Last month, we provided the wardens with an introductory training day which involved a full health and safety briefing, military training that takes place across the sites, an overview of public access and the issues associated with it.