Key Findings of a study published in October 2009 by the Forestry Commission included:
- Over half of the population visits woodlands. Many expressed a strong emotional connection with trees and woodlands, and associated a wide range of benefits with them.
- Although only one third of respondents claimed to know who owned the woods that they visit, and about one tenth felt that it was important, most have clear and strong views about how public money should be spent and what benefits public forests should provide.
- This is supported by the fact that 70% of respondents could list values for publicly owned woodlands, while only 55% of respondents could list values for privately owned woodlands.
- All categories of values associated with woodlands are associated more strongly with publicly owned than private ones. Recreation, access and facilities such as well-maintained paths, car parking, toilets and cafes were most frequently reported as important.
- Public expectations for future benefits from the Public Forest Estate (PFE) were also higher than for comparable benefits from other woodland. For all woodland types they prioritised wildlife habitat provision followed by recreation, landscape conservation, climate change mitigation and education.
- Many participants felt that the PFE was run cost-effectively; some were surprised how little public resource was actually used. There was often strong support for public ownership to guarantee access for the public, and sustainable woodland management in the future.
- Most participants in the discussion groups expressed a strong wish to maintain or increase the current extent and composition of public woodland ownership.