The policy of the Forestry Commissioners is governed by the New Forest Act, 1877, and in particular by Section 6 of that Act, which provides that in cutting timber care shall be taken to maintain the picturesque character of the ground, and to keep the woods replenished by protecting self-sown plants or by planting, having regard to the ornamental as well as the profitable use of the ground. The working plan of the forest prepared by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests and followed by the Forestry Commissioners provides for:
The earlier enclosures of the 17th century were set apart for the growing of oak for the Royal Navy and other national purposes. The later enclosures, those under the Deer Removal Act of 1851, were granted to the Crown in exchange for the rights of keeping deer in the forest. The area enclosable amounts to 17,600 acres, of which no more than 16,000 acres may be enclosed at any one time (present enclosures about 15,000 acres). The remainder of the forest, amounting to about 46,000 acres, of which 5,000 acres are older timber comprising the ancient and ornamental trees for which the forest is famous, is open and unenclosed and subject to rights of common; no felling or forestry operations can be carried on within the area except supply of dead or dying timber for firewood.