Respond now to Govt's Forests Future Panel

mark at mark at
Tue Jul 26 22:19:17 BST 2011


After the government was forced to do a u-turn on selling off 
Britain's woodlands, they set up a forests panel to help decide what 
to do next.
[full details here: ].

The dozen members of the panel have promised to listen to peoples' 
views, and they have drawn up a list of questions for people to 
respond to.  The panel are requesting peoples’ views on what forests 
and woods deliver for people, communities, nature and the economy. 
  In this de-facto consultation, the panel have suggested you submit 
answers to the following 5 questions to best frame your response (the 
consultation ends on 31st July).

The 5 questions are:

  1). What do forests and woods mean to you?
  2). What is your vision for the future of England’s forests and 
  3). What do you feel to be the benefits of forests and woods? This 
could be to you personally, to society as a whole, to the natural 
environment, to the economy?
  4). We would like to hear about your suggestions of practical 
solutions and good practice which can be replicated more widely.
  5). What do you see as the priorities and challenges for policy 
about England’s forests and woods?

(for some assistance in submitting answers to these 5 questions, read 
TLIO's perspective below).

The internet campaign '38 degrees' are encouraging thousands of people 
to answer the quick questions to make sure they hear a huge, 
people-powered message that we want them to look after our forests. 
 Please copy and paste this url link to take a few minutes to answer 
the questions:


send your individual response direct to: 
forestrypanel at


The government's fast-track cuts agenda is preempting the excuse for 
sell-off whilst cuts in the Forestry Commission budget are deemed 
necessary in response to a 25% reduction in the Department for 
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (DEFRA’s) funding imposed by the 
government as part of government cuts.

Despite having ditched clause 17 & 18 of the Public Bodies Bill after 
huge public outcry across the country early this year (half a million 
people signed 38 Degrees’ petition), the fact remains that within the 
existing legal framework, the government can sell-off up to 15% of 
it’s public forests in each four-year public spending period (15% 
sell-off every 4 years means some 38,700 hectares, could be sold off 
over the next five years).

However, in ditching the initial plan for wholesale sell-off, the 
existing 15% sell-off and future sales are now subject to them 
agreeing new acceptable criteria for sale which they are consulting on 
now in a review into the future of the public forest estate being 
conducted by a "independent" government-appointed panel.

However, this so-called ‘independent’ panel which is looking at issues 
of public access and biodiversity within the review was government 
appointed. The Forest Campaigns' Network comprised of all the regional 
grassroots campaigns across the country were not given a seat on the 
Forestry Panel. On the panel are representatives of the big NGOs (such 
as English Heritage and the Woodland Trust – both of whom were 
criticised for being initially slow to respond critically to the 
government’s unconditional sell-off proposals).

38 degrees: “[The panel] answer to the same minister who cooked up the 
plans to sell the forests in the first place. So, although the panel 
could make sensible plans for our woodlands’ future, they could be 
under pressure to rubber-stamp more sell-offs. Together, we can stop 
that happening.”

The Land is Ours says:

England's forests are effectively and efficiently managed within the 
public sector, and this situation should continue. The Forestry 
Commission (FC) controls just 18% of woodland in England, yet the 
Commission produces 60% of home grown timber, and harvests 92% of its 
softwood increment, as opposed to just 37% in the private sector. The 
public forest estate counters the business cycle by a steady timber 
harvest irrespective of market conditions through their network of 
staff and contractors, their forest infrastructure and year-on-year 
thinning and planting operations. By contrast, only 60% of all private 
woodlands are in management schemes.

And the FC doesn't just grow trees. They are a major player in the 
restoration of ancient woodland, as well as endangered heath, mire, 
fell, and other open habitats. About 26% of Forestry Commission land 
has SSSI status and 96% of this is in favourable condition.

The current (albeit shrinking) operational activity of the Forestry 
Commission (FC) are the best examples of good practice which should be 
preserved let alone replicated more widely. The FC coordinates 
forestry management across all its forestry, which contrasts with 
existing woodland which has been sold into private hands where there 
have been an increase in the incidence of a loss of coordinated 
management with coppice thrown out of cycle and left unmanaged, and an 
increase in other negative repercussions such as reduced maintenance 
such as with gates, structures, warnings against trespass, lights, 
clearances, and in extreme examples, dumped vehicles, flytipping and 
numerous fire sites.

What do we see as the priorities and challenges for policy about 
England’s forests and woods?

Sell-off/ownership transfer to community trusteeship is misconceived 
because fragmentation of publicly-owned forestry undermines the 
underlying principle of cross-subsidisation within the Forestry 
Commission (FC) management structure, with profitable forest 
subsidising loss-making forestry in order to attain environmental 
management objectives. This is the reason why, in our opinion, all 
English Forests currently owned by the FC need to remain in the 
ownership of the FC.

The rational of forest sell-off is flawed because it takes away the 
market stability the nationalised resource is afforded through steady 
planned harvesting programmes which provide a counter-cyclical 
market-stabilising influence over fluctuating market prices for 
timber, which in turn provides a stable economic environment for a 
whole infrastructure of sawmills, processors and forestry contractors.

State ownership provides a degree of insulation from the irrationality 
of the market, a degree of potential public accountability, a 
multi-functionality, and an access to professional and funding 
resources which is beyond anything which even the largest third sector 
or private organisations can achieve.

All UK forestry above a certain size and of significant ecological 
importance should be managed under the jurisdiction of a regulatory 
body which oversees the management of all woodland nationally - a role 
which could be given to the FC to extend it's remit (to oversee 
management of privately owned forestry). The FC should therefore be 
given a dual role of regulator of national forestry management as well 
as remaining as a single national public body responsible for the 
management of existing forestry it currently owns. For this, the 
financial budget of the Forestry Commission will need to be increased, 
notwithstanding the fact that forthcoming cuts to it's current budget 
will need to be reversed/cancelled.
All jobs, funding, and infrastructure of the Forestry Commission 
should be preserved at least at the level, in terms of real purchasing 
power, that they were at the time of the election of the present 
government. There should be no job losses, no closures or 
amalgamations of regions and regional and local offices. The 15% sales 
programme announced by the minister for the 4-year period of the 
public spending review should be stopped.

The FC should seek to expand public involvement in its decision-making 
processes. The abolition of the Regional Advisory Committees should be 
reversed as a first step. Whilst we accept the quality of the Forestry 
Commission’s public consultation we believe that the democratic 
involvement of the public could be greatly deepened and extended. This 
will require new resourcing, which we fully support. Additionally, we 
believe that a new focus on providing additional public access 
benefits in the Commission’s leasehold woods (which didn’t benefit 
from dedication as CROW access land) should be initiated.

Finally, all woodland within England should become statutory open 
access land under the terms of the CROW Act (2000). For many areas of 
England the only remaining substantive areas of semi-natural habitat 
are woodland. Many areas of England, particularly in the midlands and 
eastern England, saw very little benefit from the CROW Act ‘right to 
roam’ clauses.

The consultation ends on 31st July. Sign 38 degree’s petition or send 
your individual response direct to: forestrypanel at

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