Are forests in the UK for sale?

Posted by jamie — 6 December 2010 at 6:11pm - Comments

Image by Lee Jordan

The government recently announced it is considering selling off large areas of woodlands. Forested areas in the UK are important for local biodiversity, and while Greenpeace campaigns are focused on tropical rainforests, the Woodland Trust is all about our own trees. Guest blogger Kaye Brennan from the Trust explains what's going on in our own backyard.

For the latest news on the proposed forest sell-off, visit the Woodland Trust's website.

First of all, let me say that yes, we are worried, and no, we're not campaigning... yet!

Shocking news burst our peaceful Sunday bubble recently, as the Guardian and several other newspapers announced that Defra were considering the mass sale of at least half of the public forest estate.

Several petitions were swiftly started, between them gathering signatures from hundreds of thousands of concerned people and they are still growing in numbers. Online, views were made clear in the hundreds of comments left on articles, blog posts, Facebook pages and tweets.

As the UK's leading woodland conservation charity, we were inundated at once with emails and calls from people who wanted to know if we'd heard the news and whether or not it was true. And then, what we were doing about it. Truth is, at that point the answer was not much.

We are always concerned about what the future might hold for woods and forests in public ownership, especially planted ancient woodland sites which need urgent restoration; if this happens it would make a massive contribution to improving the future for Britain's woodland wildlife. The press were reporting one scenario - mass disposal - amongst the many which might yet emerge.

We know there will be sales of forest land - but how much, what kind and where will the money end up? The answers to these questions will determine the future of our woodland, and the Woodland Trust will continue to lobby at all levels of government to influence environmental policy and strategy.

We anticipate seeing a concrete opportunity for the public to really influence that response soon, through formal consultation in the new year. Using official vehicles we can send our supporter's thoughts and views straight to the heart of government - in fact our Dear DEFRA campaign, which ended recently, did just that.

Our ongoing work behind the scenes can help us to make reasoned, balanced reactions to headlines like the ones we were seeing. This does not mean the Trust is complacent about the future of the forest estate. Even if mass disposal is one possible scenario out of many other possible scenarios, it's still a scenario Defra might consider.

Rest assured though, when the time comes to take action on this we'll be right on it! We'll look forward to having you with us - it looks like the UK's woods and trees will need a voice that is louder than ever...

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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