Wood and trees

David Quinn [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
David Quinn [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The next three days should see the Government response to the report of the Independent Panel on Forestry – a nation holds its breath.

Government has hardly rushed into print having had nearly seven months to read a 72-page report.

I am still of the opinion that there is a real need for government to retain the ownership of the very best of our forests in order to protect their cultural and wildlife value but I’m not going to get worked up over the fate of many grotty little commercial woodlands that are currently in public ownership.  I doubt whether government will say anything very exciting on this subject but we’ll have to wait and see.

Anyone with a radical turn of mind would be asking why we have a government agency (OK – actually a non-ministerial government department) in charge of trees alone.  We should be seeing the Forestry Commission being merged with Natural England to form a proper Forest and Wildlife Service – but I doubt that we will see anything as exciting as that either.

Government is thinking about its agencies right now – although only EA and NE but not FC.  How odd! More on this later in the week.



8 Replies to “Wood and trees”

  1. I believe, as many others in the arb world, that the remit of the FC should be extended to include all trees, particularly non woodland trees and urban trees. The principles of forestry are not and should not be solely conservation and I would echo Prof Jay Appleton’s comments in the latest Landscape Research Extra (PDF available to download on Landscape Research Group website) where he states that the work in redesigning the conifer blocks many find so offensive has not been finished and should be allowed to be. Why simply sell off these public assets to remain scars on the landscape? And, as was seen during the PFE disposal furore, the public make no distinction between conifer plantations and native woodland as a place they enjoy then if nothing else such block forestry is a useful ‘honeypot’ for upland conservation in the control of public movement.
    Forestry has to be allowed to continue as a science and career at the front of sustainable development. I would like to see forestry enter the peri urban landscape and reclaim its virtues rather than continue in the doldrums it has been forced into by being usurped by some NGOs and other Quangos heavier and often spurious clamouring.
    And when conservation is seeking funding, rather than heading down the distasteful route of Biodiversity Offsetting, should it not be learning how to integrate those charged with all those involved – with practitioners and public at the head table? Which is what forestry used to do and still can if given the opportunity. The forestry and much of land industry won’t die as a result of FC diminishment or merger, but it will become even more separated from the conservation lobby, leading to more exclusion of people from the decisions in their everyday landscapes.

  2. With now a push to take back the railways after yesterdays mess the forestry should be able to push on to new heights. There is so much ground that needs planting after floods, land slips and carbon capture. The private sector will do nothing unless they are paid and given that £billions has been lost in farming paying them to do nothing it is about time some one shut the door and put money into something we can be proud of. 55% youth unemployment in Spain and something like it here if you read behind the scene. What future has Britain got with the lowest coverage of trees in Europe!

  3. There’s a small FC wood on the edge of Exmoor I’ve driven past a few times in the last couple of years. It’s mainly conifer, with a nicely designed recently felled coupe accentuating its attractive place in the landscape. Its miles from anywhere – yet each time I go by there are tow or three dog walkers cars parked in the entrance. What I suspect you would find – as the Government did, and as Oliver Letwin, under the pressure of the next election, seems to have realised is that far more FC woods have people who care about them than most people realise.

    There is also the big issue that much of our farmed countryside is pretty inaccessible – certainly to anyone who wants to let their dog off the lead.

    Pip has pointed out the big issue – the one that undermines change in the present climate – which is the intense sectoralisation of the countryside – and there is no easing up of the different interest’s determination to protect their own corner – I’m in favour of a wildlife & environment service – but not now, because it’s not what we’d get – what we would get now is one interest swallowing the other. Nature Conservation has completely swallowed access & landscape as NE has developed, trees and forestry would be swallowed if amalgamated into NE and there is even the looming risk for organisational change enthusiasts of nature conservation being swallowed (or flooded perhaps ?) by amalgamation with the megalithic EA.

  4. Hello Mark, a few comments on proposed woodland, some already discussed by Panel. 1/. Land for new woodland. If woodland is planted on agricultural land this will reduce the amount of land available for food production. With a rising population this would mean an increase in food imports. 2/. If tree stock is imported from abroad this will increase the incidence of disease. 3/. All tree/shrubs should be grown from native seed. This will create jobs in the horticulture industry. During the late 18th/early 19th centuries millions of shrubs were grown in this country for hedge planting required in Enclosure Acts. 4/. There should be mixed planting of softwood and hardwood species (native). Trees cropped on a shorter rotation would be better planted near access tracks. 5/. As more land is built on there is less land for tree planting. The “need” for more housing etc. is driven by the construction industry. 6/. Access to new woodland. Many landowners will not want the public on their land. If public access is a condition of new woodland a large percentage of landowners will not take part. Some landowners are only interested in their land being a business and the public and wildlife are excluded. 7/. Planting trees is a good way to encourage people to value the land but it should be remembered that tree planting is not the solution to every situation. Care must be taken to ensure that other habitats are not destroyed in the need to create woodland. 8/. Woodland is still being destroyed to make way for “development.” Local authority planning depts. (such as doncaster) are too willing to accept destruction of older habitats so long as new landscapes are put in place. Medieval and Enclosure landscapes will soon be completely lost. In our parish the number of hedges has declined from 680 to approx. 12 in the last 50 years. Planning depts. should be educated to put our environment and wildlife first. 9/. Hedge removal isolates woodland. This in turn makes woodland less accessible to wildlife which need cover to move around the landscape. 10/. In areas where land is poor for crop growing ie. very rocky, poor draining etc. perhaps turning this land to wood pasture would be of use. This land could be used for animal grazing as well as tree growing. Perhaps our “green” government would care to read about land use before the last war. It has taken several thousand years for humans to work in harmony with our land, and a lot less to destroy it!

  5. The Scottish Government is winding up for its own “exciting time”. It has a committee currently looking at potential for mergers within its portfolio of “environmental” organisations……FC, SEPA, SNH and the two national parks. They are obviously watching what is happening in Wales and if the FC’s UK legislation is opened up to accommodate Wales- then undoubtedly the Scottish Government will pounce.

    Each of the organisation was created for a discrete purpose and with merger (even if it seems logical) the clarity of that purpose is lost. Budgets mean that decisions about emphasis and direction of work have to be taken and areas which once had a clear champion are left to wither . This is what is happening with nature conservation in Scotland. SNH’s priorities are now health and economic development (to be supported by the natural heritage).
    Be very wary about mergers.

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