This Forestry Panel wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the recent, extraordinary, public outcry. We can’t think of one reason their work shouldn’t be transparent…
The chair of the panel, Bishop James Jones, has indicated in communications with campaigns and comments to the media that we should “..be assured that one of the priorities of the Panel will be to give time for us to meet with forest users so that we can hear your views and concerns”.
Aside from the fact our concerns are well documented already, this is expected by campaigners as a matter of course. However, it is not enough.
Recently Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust, blogged “With a panel of 12 it should be expected that at least someone from an on the ground campaign should be there. The representatives who are there need to bear this in mind. If local campaigns are not represented then at least us in the NGOs should be prepared to pass on their views”.
The majority of panel members are not in themselves experts in forestry and therefore their capacity on the panel must be as representatives of their own groups policies. By their very nature, charitable organisations must adhere to, and do nothing that will diminish, their charities own aims and objectives. So, yes, someone should have been given a seat on the panel from the truly independent local campaigns, we are not represented.
We believe that the omission of a representative of the local campaigns is serious and speaks volumes.
We at SaveOurWoods.co.uk and the many other forest campaign groups, look forward to the opportunity to represent ourselves and therefore the 40 million people that use our forests, to the panel.
It’s all very well our voice being filtered through the NGOs… but as we had to fight to stop the public bodies bill without them, to instil confidence that our word is being presented faithfully, the panels’ communications must be public.