Rare moth threatened with local extinction after development is recommended for approval

Rare moth threatened with local extinction after development is recommended for approval

Forester moth at Maple Cross (c) Martin Parr

A contentious development that threatens the local-extinction of a rare moth has been recommended for approval by Three Rivers District Council at their upcoming planning committee on Thursday 21st October.

Wildlife conservationists are dismayed that Three Rivers District Council have recommended the approval of a controversial planning application for two warehouses in Maple Cross. The proposed warehouses are to be built on land where a rare Forester moth, presumed extinct in Hertfordshire, was recently discovered. The planning application received objections from hundreds of local residents as well as Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, The Colne Valley Regional Park Authority and The Maple Lodge Conservation Society.

The bright-green Forester moth (Adscita statices) was last seen in Hertfordshire in 1976 but was sighted on the development site in Maple Cross in July this year prompting further objections to the proposed development.

Forester moth at Maple Cross

Forester moth at Maple Cross (c) Martin Parr

Matt Dodds, Planning and Biodiversity Officer at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said “The decision to recommend the approval of this development is a tragedy. We were delighted to report the miraculous rediscovery of the Forester earlier in the year. This population will not be protected, however, as the developers have not put forward a viable plan to conserve this precious species. Should the application be approved by the planning committee, this national priority species will once again become extinct from the local area, within a few months of its rediscovery.”

Matt added “Planning authorities have a legal duty to conserve biodiversity and we are calling on Three Rivers District Council planning committee to do the right thing and refuse this application. The UN has identified the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world and we are facing an ecological and climate crisis. Actions like this only go to worsen the state of our natural world and the district council has an obligation to the people of the district to conserve their wildlife.

Maple Cross development site

Maple Cross development site (c) Martin Parr

The Forester moth was identified as a species of concern and presumed extinct in the Hertfordshire State of Nature report, published by the Trust in 2020. It is also listed as a ‘species of principle importance' in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. Forester moths feed on specific wildflowers and have suffered from habitat loss in recent decades.

The moth was originally found by Martin Parr, Conservation Officer at the adjacent Maple Lodge Nature Reserve. Martin said “Finding the moth was an incredible moment for me, the last time I’d seen one was in 1992. It is devastating to think that it could be lost only months after finding it. It is unbelievable that Three Rivers District Council has recommended that this development should go ahead.  We must now hope that the local councillors do the right thing and overturn the planning officer’s recommendation”.

Forester moth

Forester moth (c) Margaret Holland

The Forester takes its name from its iridescent green wings which are reminiscent of the green clothes historically worn by forest workers. The moths rely on specific wildflowers to lay their eggs and feed their caterpillars. Populations of the moth have been declining in recent years and the moth has been identified by Natural England as a focus species for the Back From The Brink project aimed at stopping the extinctions of critically endangered species in the UK.

In Hertfordshire, one-fifth of the wildlife assessed in Hertfordshire’s State of Nature Report, published by the Trust in 2020, is currently either locally extinct or threatened with extinction. Habitat loss and fragmentation have sent populations plummeting. The report concludes that at least 30% of land must be protected for wildlife in order to combat the ecological and climate crisis.