by Rod Leslie, founding member of Our Forests
As the Chancellor goes for growth there is no better opportunity than backing Britain’s trees.
Industry spokesmen Confor estimate 7,000 extra jobs from managing our woodlands in Britain, equivalent to £200m a year of new economic activity in England alone, where nearly half our woods are currently unmanaged.
And in contrast to most infrastructure projects, more woodland management will save both carbon and wildlife.
The Government already has the blueprint in its Woodfuel Strategy and the funding through the Renewable Heat Incentive. All that is needed is leadership and support for business. The opportunity is already there as it prepares to respond to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report.
How it responds will be a crucial test: is Defra a growth Department or can it see no further than cuts ? How will it mobilise and support it’s talented and popular delivery arm, The Forestry Commission, to work with business, land managers, conservationists and everyone who values the great outdoors to create a countryside that is both economically and environmentally sustainable ?
As Chalara threatens Ash, one of our commonest trees, the leadership shown by Secretary of State Owen Patterson could galvanise a wide and visionary response to what today looks like nothing but a disaster. The right action, and modest investment, looks a certain route to a rapid payback.
At a time when leadership, vision and confidence are all important surely we cannot take the risk of being the country that can afford Trident but can’t afford its Trees.