Birdwatch News Archive
The government had to fund an inquiry to be told that woodland is beneficial to our, and nature's, wellbeing. Photo: www.rspb-images.com.
Report forces another government U-turn on forests
Posted on: 05 Jul 2012
Conservationists welcomed recommendations that forests should stay in public hands, and Environment Secretary Caroline Spellman has fully reversed a proposal to sell off Britain's woodland.
The sale of 15 per cent of England's publicly-owned forests has now been averted, completing the government's backpedalling over their extremely unpopular proposal to sell off much of Britain's woodlands into private hands.
Independent Panel on Forestry was established in March 2011 to advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England and on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy. It is made up of the heads of several conservation and countryside bodies and chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool. Public forests play a vital role for people and wildlife and should remain in public hands, an independent panel of experts advised Government today in a report that has been welcomed by the RSPB.
The report urges "greater protection and continuing restoration of habitats identified as being of high priority" and highlights the pivotal role that woods and forests have in our lives, in providing vital space for plants and wildlife, keeping people healthy and connected with nature, helping to keep our air and water clean, helping us adapt to climate change and driving a move to a greener economy.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: "If woodlands are healthy and well-managed then they are one of our greatest natural assets, and we’re pleased to see the report focus on making it a priority for new and existing woodlands in all ownerships to benefit people and wildlife.
"But, while the recommendations are pleasing, they won’t help if our woodlands are starved of funding and effective management. The report points out that we all reap benefits to the value of 20 times the amount government actually puts in to public woodlands, which makes it an incredible investment opportunity."
In a recent public survey asking why people value woodlands, wildlife was the top response. However, woodland wildlife is declining at an alarming rate, faster than in almost any other habitat.
Martin continued: "We’ve already lost three in four Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, nine in 10 Willow Tits and more than half of our woodland butterflies and that’s only a snapshot of the full picture. If things don’t change, we will lose the diversity of life that makes our woodlands so special. It is now up to the government to decide how to take these recommendations forward. The RSPB will continue to make the case that any changes must lead to greater benefits for woodland wildlife and for people."
James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, said on the Guardian website that: "our woodlands, managed sustainably, can offer solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing society today. There is untapped potential within England's woodlands to create jobs, to sustain skills and livelihoods, to improve the health and wellbeing of people and to provide better and more connected places for nature."
For a copy of the Independent Panel on Forestry Final Report, visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/forestrypanel/reports/.
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