Sunday the 31st of July 2011 saw the deadline for the Forestry Panel’s ‘Call for Views’. Thanks to the hard work of campaign groups and individuals there were more than 40, 000 responses! This is all the more extraordinary when you consider that the questions asked required you to do more than just tick a box or push a button. No one can be accused of being a “push button campaigner” this time! I’ve read so many inspiring, deeply thought out responses! What a resource the Call for Views is!
Of course, I have a few gripes about the Call for Views; the main one being the failure of the Forestry Panel to advertise it, with some stakeholders hearing about it only days before the deadline. I know there were over 40, 000 responses but just how many were solicited by the panel? The vast majority came (over 30, 000 in fact) when 38 Degrees picked up the Save Our Forests baton again. With a further 4000 or so responses coming from the Woodland Trust through their hard work publicising it to their members.
I’m so disappointed at the apparent frittering away of the largest public engagement with our natural environment England has ever seen; the Save Our Forests campaign. The Forestry Panel had a real opportunity to build on the huge energy the wider public brandished in defiance of the threat to sell off our Public Forest Estate. They could have struck while the fire was hot, to meaningfully engage the wider public, without fear or ego, and work together to decide the most sustainable future for our woodlands & forests. This Call for Views goes some way towards that but with the panel failing to advertise it, by tightly controlling who is invited to workshops and forest visits and by trickle feeding information to hand picked campaign groups in the hope they do the advertising, the panel is falling very short of what could have been and, I believe, should be.
I’ve heard lots of people say the Save Our Forests campaign has been “thrown into the long grass” by DEFRA. Well yes, I think it has and I ask the Forestry Panel/secretariat to please, join us in finding the ball!
Below are my answers to the Call for Views. I had to reign myself in quite a lot as I could have gone on… and on…
If you would like to share your response to the panel, here on SoW, please email it to me in .pdf format.
Q1. What do forests and woods mean to you?
Humans and woodlands have worked together for thousands of years.
Human beings are innately connected to trees and woods, a connection which has been nurtured over countless centuries of living with trees and making use of all that they provide. We have ever relied on wood to build our shelters, keep us warm, light our way and cook our food. Likewise, many species have come to rely on some of our traditional, low impact, forestry practices, coppicing being a good example of this.
Human beings are not separate from nature, we are part of an eco-system and our woodlands are the pinnacle of our habitat. Woodlands are life support.
Q2. What is your vision for the future of England’s forests and woods?
1) Our Public Forest Estate should be removed from the ownership of the Secretary of State and placed in Trust for the nation. Protected in perpetuity.
2) Management/Administration – A fully resourced, expert body, fully accountable to the public. Not tied to the whims of Parliament but instead tied to the Public Forest Estate and it’s stakeholders. Decisions made based on the life of a woodland and not the ‘blink of an eye’ term of office of a Prime Minister.
3) Increased tree cover in both rural and urban settings, with the landscape as a WHOLE and sustainability (as defined in the Brundtland report) in mind when designing. With the RIGHT trees, in the RIGHT places and policy in place to ensure proper maintenance of the new woodlands, overseen by experts.
4) Defining & implementing truly sustainable forestry practices is vital (see below), as growing populations put increased demand for short rotation timber crops for paper, construction, fuel, etc.
5) Recognition that the UK might be an island but our woodlands and forests are connected to the temperate woodlands and forests of Europe. We must keep up our World renowned Forest Research, to protect against devastating diseases and pests.
Q3. What do you feel to be the benefits of forests and woods to: a) you personally; b) society as a whole; c) the natural environment; d) the economy?
a) Woods and forests are my livelihood, my heat source, my playground, a place that keeps me healthy and my mind at ease.
b) Woods and forests are vital for the health and well being of mind and body. You can not separate society from woodlands and trees without society suffering as a result. Society relies on wood for many day to day products.
c) Woods and forests are one of the most important habitats in the World.
d) Woods and forests bring many millions of pounds into the economy through forestry and recreation.
Q4. We would like to hear about your suggestions of practical solutions and good practice which can be replicated more widely:
Whether small scale or large scale, forestry should be sustainable and have strict guidelines to ensure it has the lowest impact possible to this most important of habitats. Without exception.
Here is a list of links to research that I feel answer this question perfectly:
1) Low Impact/sustainable silviculture – http://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/forestry/edik-59flea
2) Teeb – http://www.teebweb.org
3) Brundtland Report – http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm
4) DEFRA working group paper (created following the 2009 public consultation on the long term role of the Forestry Commission Public Forest Estate in England) – http://saveourwoods.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Defra-Working-Group-Paper.pdf
5) Community Forestry: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-7TSD7E
6) European Landscape Convention – http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/landscape/protection/europeanconvention/default.aspx
Q5. What do you see as the priorities and challenges for policy about England’s forests and woods?
The issues needing to be addressed as a priority are:
1) Sustainability (in the TRUE sense of the word – see Brundtland report for definition) in all forestry & forest recreation practices.
2) Ownership of our Public Forest Estate – moved from the Secretary of State and instead placed in Trust for the Nation
3) Management/Administration – Fully resourced, expert body, fully accountable to the public. Not tied to the whims of Parliament but instead tied to the Public Forest Estate and it’s stakeholders.
4) Increased tree cover – using sustainable landscape design, in the right places to ensure protection in perpetuity (ie; not where food might need to be grown or houses built, in the future).
The biggest challenge will be getting the Government to implement these changes.