State Investment in Forests is Vital

Thursday 8th December 2011

Chaddesley Woods (c) Tanya BascombeChaddesley Woods (c) Tanya Bascombe

The Independent Forestry Panel must shout about the value of woodland nature.

As the Forestry Panel launched its interim report The Wildlife Trusts look to the Panel to explain to the Government the true value of our woodlands and to ‘bust the myth’ that the Public Forest Estate is a burden on the state.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscapes for The Wildlife Trusts, explained "If the Budget recognised the full range and scale of benefits our natural environment provided there would be no question of the Treasury pressing for forest sales, or reducing the investment it made in the Public Forest Estate.

"Just as we cannot be separated from nature, so forestry cannot be separated from the future of our natural environment as a whole." Colin Raven, Director of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust

The net annual cost to the Treasury of Forest Enterprise, the arm of Forestry Commission England that manages the PFE, is under £20m. Yet the expenditure on just one of the road schemes announced last week in the Autumn Statement (A453 widening between Nottingham, the M1 and East Midlands Airport) is £160m. You could have eight times the Public Forest Estate and all its public benefits for the price of just one road scheme.

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment report, issued in June, highlights the hidden value of nature, worth billions of pounds to the UK economy. It estimates the value of social and environmental benefits of woodland in the UK alone as £1.2 billion per annum.

Paul continued “The costs to Society of not investing in our woods and forests as part of our natural environment and well-being far outweigh the comparatively small costs to the Treasury of doing so. These places provide substantial physical and mental health benefits, a natural means to counter flooding and important wildlife habitats.

“Many of us are deprived of the sights and sounds of nature in our day-to-day lives and opportunities to explore wildlife-rich places.

"Our woodlands must play their part in an equally rich network of other habitats such as gardens and parks, meadows, wetlands and moorland. And some places, dark pine plantations should be opened up to give way to more diverse and wildlife-rich habitat."

Paul concluded “The Wildlife Trusts, through its submissions, have pressed the Panel to articulate the numerous and substantial benefits drawn from our woodlands. Enhancing wildlife is not a luxury for our nation – it is essential.

"Woodlands are just one part of a bigger picture: England's nature. Taking the right approach to England’s public forest estate could help us to redress the vast declines in wildlife during the twentieth century."

More information

You can read the Panel's report on DEFRA's website
Follow the link to discover more about The Wildlife Trusts' views on managing woodland

Tagged with: Forest, Forestry review, Government