As the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report is released, Somerset Wildlife Trust welcomes Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman’s pledge that ‘our forests will stay in public hands’ and broadly welcome the Panel’s recommendations.
But vitally, Somerset Wildlife Trust urges the Government to adopt the Panel’s recommendations for a changed remit for the Forestry Commission to ensure it gives nature; people’s enjoyment of woodlands; and the sustainable woodland management a higher priority.
There is much more to do to build on the potential of the Public Forest Estate and the Trust is calling on the Government to invest in England’s woods and forests to secure nature’s recovery.
Providing huge benefits to the nation
Simon Nash, Chief Executive for Somerset Wildlife Trust, said: “The Public Forest Estate is a tremendous national asset and has the potential to deliver even more benefits for wildlife and people. We currently invest £20 million a year which provides an estimated return of £400million. At 20:1 this is a phenomenal return on this national investment, providing huge benefits to the nation.
“The Public Forest Estate has the potential to help achieve the objectives of last year’s Natural Environment White Paper through the integration, better protection, reconnection and restoration of woodlands. That’s why we had hoped to see stronger recommendations from the Panel, specifically the reconnection of woodlands at a landscape- scale.
“We want to see stronger protection for existing woodlands, especially ancient woodlands, and more urgency in the restoration of open habitats. We believe areas of lowland heathland, meadow and other internationally important open habitats planted with conifers should be restored with urgency. It is critical that the Government takes this opportunity to release this potential within the Public Forest Estate.”
Notes to Editors:
The Independent Panel on Forestry
The Independent Panel on Forestry was established on 17 March 2011 by the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman MP, to advise government on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England. The Panel is chaired by the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool. Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, sits on the Panel in a personal capacity. The panel’s final report will be published on Wednesday 4 July 2012.
The Wildlife Trusts have engaged with the Panel at every opportunity. Our recommendations to the Panel reflect our vision for A Living Landscape and enshrine the thinking about nature’s recovery in the Lawton Review and Natural Environment White Paper. The Wildlife Trusts submitted a response to the Panel’s call for views, which can be downloaded at http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/living-landscape/woodland-and-forestry/independent-panel-forestry-england
The Natural Environment White Paper
The Government’s White Paper, published in June 2011, emphasises the intrinsic, economic and social value of the natural environment. It also endorses the need for a landscape-scale approach to securing nature’s recovery.
The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) www.wildlifetrusts.org/woodland
There are 37 individual Wildlife Trusts in England. The Wildlife Trusts have more than 740,000 members in England including 140,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.
As a charity concerned with protecting wildlife sites and securing nature’s recovery, The Wildlife Trusts’ key interest is to ensure places rich in nature are identified and protected for the future.
The Wildlife Trusts’ vision of A Living Landscape is a recovery plan for nature which involves enlarging, improving, creating and joining up wildlife-rich areas of land to create a connected ecological network across the UK. Woodlands are a key part of that ecological network. The Wildlife Trusts want to see all of the existing native woodlands safeguarded. In some areas conifer plantations should be restored to their former glory as heath, bog or broadleaved woodland habitats. To fulfil our vision we are committed to securing the best use and management of all land, including forests and woods, for the benefit of people and wildlife
Historic background on The Wildlife Trusts’ work in woods and forests
World War II saw large-scale felling of ancient broadleaved woods and their conversion to conifers to grow and supply timber for the war effort, as we were no longer able to rely on timber imports. In the 1950s and 60s, to secure long-term supplies of timber, there was extensive planting of conifers on semi-natural habitats such as heathland, grassland, bog and wetland. As a result, during the 20th Century, 40% of England’s ancient woodland was converted to plantations. Woodlands have also been lost or damaged through urban and agricultural development and now, ancient woodlands cover just three per cent of England’s land area. Of the remaining ancient woodlands, 80% are less than 20 hectares in size and half of these are even smaller - less than five hectares.
For many decades Wildlife Trusts have tried to stem the tide against forestry practices destroying key habitats such as bogs and heathlands and have safeguarded precious ancient woodlands against destruction. The Wildlife Trusts care for more than 16,000 ha of woodland in England alone.
We're also involved with many community woodlands and help to advise on woodland creation projects. Many Wildlife Trusts are also involved with increasingly large-scale schemes to create and restore other wildlife habitats such as heathland and wetland within woodlands. Find out more about The Wildlife Trusts and woodland conservation work with community woods, nature reserves and restoration schemes.