OUR FORESTS – PRESS RELEASE
Our Forests has put in a Freedom of Information  request to find out which organisations and/or other bodies have had or are having any discussions with officials as to the possibility of their taking on the ownership and management of any of England’s public woods and forests, as part of the Government’s stalled ‘disposal’ plans for the public forest estate.
Our Forests founding member, Hen Anderson, said,
“Rumours have been rife among grassroots groups and in the on-line campaign community that the Government has been and maybe still is in talks with various conservation bodies – including those sitting on the Independent Forestry Panel – about taking on some of our public woods and forests. There have even been rumours of officials meeting with overseas organisations and companies . Along with hundreds of thousands of people across the country , we simply want to know whether any of those organisations represented on the panel or others have met with officials to discuss taking on any of our woods and forests. If so – when, what was discussed, and what is their present position?”
Our Forests believes it is in the public interest that information about any previous or current discussions – should be out in the open. Not least because a number of the groups rumoured to have been in discussions with Government about taking over ownership and management of some of our public woods and forests are represented on the ‘Independent Panel on Forestry Policy in England. Public trust in the Panel and any recommendations it makes to Government as to the future for our public woods and forests is dependent on its members being open and transparent in their own organisation’s dealings and discussions around the future of the public forest estate. .
As well as putting in the Freedom of Information request, Our Forests has written directly to the chief executives of the conservation bodies which are represented on the Panel, seeking clarification as to whether they considered or are considering taking on the management of any areas of woodland and forest currently falling within the public forest estate managed by the Forestry Commission .
For further information please contact:
For other Our Forests members also see:
Notes to Editors
1. Freedom of Information request submitted to Government:
To Whom It May Concern – This is a request made under the Freedom of Information Act. • Please can you provide details of all meetings, site visits and/or discussions in
person, via the phone or email that the Government and its officials (including Forestry Commission staff) have held with any organisations – including conservation NGOs and/or commercial and professional bodies – concerning any of those organisations and bodies potentially taking on land currently falling within the Forestry Commission public forest estate?
• Please also provide details of all meetings, site visits and/or discussions in person, via the phone or email that the Government and its officials (including Forestry Commission staff) have held with any overseas based organisations – including conservation NGOs and/or commercial and professional bodies – concerning any of those organisations and bodies potentially taking on land currently falling within the Forestry Commission public forest estate?
Please specify the dates of any such meetings, site visits and/or discussions above and all those attending. Please also supply copies of notes you hold of any such meetings, site visits and discussions in the form of paper and electronic records, including emails.
• Please supply the average costs per hectare for managing the woodlands and forests that lie within the public forest estate in England and which are managed by the Forestry Commission.
• Please specify the overall costs per annum to the taxpayer for managing the woods and forests of the public forest estate in England.
• As well as the average costs across the entire 258,000 hectares of the public forest estate, please also supply management costs per hectare for the following indicative examples of woods and forests on the public forest estate:
• a site with standard access, low visitor numbers, and a primary output of timber production;
• a site delivering the full mix of multi-purpose forestry benefits – access/recreation/timber/biodiversity/ecosystem services;
• a site developed/restored as community woodland in close proximity to and delivering multiple benefits to urban populations.
We look forward to hearing from you promptly (within 20 working days, as specified under the Freedom of Information Act) and providing the information requested.
2. Rumours – see this background document – Our Forests Background Briefing for FOI Request
3. Over 530,000 people signed the 38 Degrees’ petition, ‘Save Our Forests!’
4. Independent Panel on Forestry Policy in England The Panel closes its public ‘Call for Views’ exercise on Sunday, 31st July. See:http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/forestry/panel/
5. Questions put directly to NGOs: “Have you or any of your staff met or otherwise communicated with any representatives of this Government or their officials (including Forestry Commission staff) at any point over the past 15 months to discuss your organisation taking on – under whatever arrangements – any parts of the current Forestry Commission Public Forest Estate?
If so, please specify the date when you met, what was discussed and any agreed outcomes.
Please can you also provide the average management costs per hectare for any woods, forests – including other habitats being restored from former or presently planted up woodland (i.e. restoration of plantation ancient woodland sites, heathland etc.)- that lie within your organisation’s land holding.”