The Verderers of the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme is the largest environmental improvement scheme in England. It supports the ancient tradition of commoning and is restoring internationally-important New Forest habitats.
Natural England provide technical advice and support to the scheme that is managed by the Verderers of the New Forest in partnership with Forestry England and the New Forest National Park Authority, with support from the Commoners Defence Association.
This is because in the New Forest:
- the Crown Lands are managed by Forestry England
- the Verderers have the statutory authority from government to manage the use of the land
- the National Park Authority has overall responsibility for the management of the whole of the New Forest National Park
- commoning is the traditional system of land management which shapes the New Forest.
The scheme covers 20,000 hectares of open heathland unequalled in Europe for the complexity and range of wildlife and plant life. It was launched in 2010 and so far has brought £22 million into the Forest.
The scheme is overseen by a Board drawn from the chief executives of the partner organisations. The Board is supported by a Programme Administrator who operates the whole of the programme on behalf of the Board.
For more details about the administration of the scheme, see supporting documents.
The five main objectives for the Higher Level Stewardship are:
- Wildlife conservation
- Protection of the historic environment
- Maintenance and enhancement of landscape quality and character
- Promote public access and understanding
- Resource protection.