Do you remember the huge outcry earlier this year when the government tried to sell off our publicly owned forests? It’s no exaggeration to say that the Save Our Forests campaign was one of the most successful UK environmental campaigns of all time. Forcing a government u-turn and creation of an advisory group, The Forestry Panel.
The Forestry Panel secretariat have spent the year working hard to collate and commission lots of reports and opinions to feed into the panel. They’re also producing a progress report this week. This will review the 40, 000+ responses we gave them to their ‘Call for Views’ request earlier this year, as well as an update on what they’ve been up to since they began in March and what they plan to do between now and the publication of their final recommendations in April 2012. The recommendations will be on the ownership, access rights and management of our public forests and the management and access rights of all private forests and woodlands. For the panels full terms of reference click here.
After the Chancellors shocking attack on our natural environment in his Autumn Statement last week, what makes us think the government is going to pay heed to any recommendations from the Forestry Panel that may not fall in line with financial growth?
Although some organisations and individuals have either taken credit for the success of the campaign or profited from it, the reality is that for the first time ever, I witnessed and was a part of a massive public uprising to protect a natural resource special to us, led by no one. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, information websites, news media outlets and petition site 38 Degrees informed and enabled the public to have their say. Information was shared quickly and half-truths handed out by DEFRA and some NGO’s were quickly quashed under the shear weight of instinctive passion and facts being freely exchanged between people online, either publicly or privately.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work by many forest campaign groups, politicians, some NGO’s, Forestry Commission staff, civil servants, timber businesses, unionists, academics and foresters; there was, and a lot of it too. Put simply, the Save Our Forests campaign was won by the hard work and passion of hundreds of people, from all walks of life and profession.
So, we’ve got the Forestry Panels progress report to look forward to this week, after that we’ll need to keep an eye out in the next five months for more public interaction from the Panel and then be ready for next April’s recommendations.
Don’t forget, our forests and woodlands are in a more precarious position than they were in at the time of the proposed sell off, partly due to the massive cuts to the Forestry Commission but mostly due to the coalition governments need to turn our natural resources into money. We all need to be prepared…