Biodiversity and Ecosystems 

Bringing back the osprey

The Forestry Commission was set up in 1919 to provide a “strategic reserve of timber” for Britain. It soon began planting fast-growing conifers, mainly non-native species from the west coast of North America, in many parts of the country, including the Lake District, which is now a National Park. Nearly a century later, the first generation of plantations has evolved from largely monoculture plantations into mature forests that are an established part of the landscape. As well as supplying timber, they cater to millions of visitors each year and are home to some spectacular wildlife.

The osprey, a fish-eating bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 1.5m, became extinct in the UK in the 19th century as a result of persecution by humans. But in the 1950s, birds migrating to Scandinavia from wintering in West Africa began to turn up in Scotland. More recently, the Forestry Commission began working with partners to bring ospreys back to the Lake District. In 2001, a pair nested and reared a single chick – the first ospreys to breed in the Lake District for 150 years. Since then, they have returned every year.



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