A new blog series begins some ‘conversations’ of our own around the Forests Report work streams the Trust is involved in. Over the next few weeks we will also be joined by some special guest bloggers who will share their views with you.
Introducing our first guest…. it’s over to you, Dominic Driver:
“As you might guess given that part of my job title is “Head of Woodland Expansion” I’m working closely with colleagues in the Woodland Trust on how to enable people to create more woodland. Today, Friday 5th October, the Trust is hosting the Woodland Carbon Task Force* so I thought it would be a good time to let you know what we’re working on.
So what is today’s meeting about?
We will be focussing on the Independent Panel on Forestry’s recommendation to increase the coverage of woodland in England from 10% to 15% by 2060. I’m one of the people advising Ministers on how to respond to the Panel’s recommendations. The Panel’s report is inspiring. We share this vision, Government having already set out in the Natural Environment White Paper its ambitions for more and better managed woodland, asking the Panel to advise on the appropriate amount. The Woodland Carbon Task Force is all about key organisations working together on how to respond to the recommendation. It is invaluable in helping me give Ministers the best possible advice.
At the meeting we’ll be focussing on two activities:
We’ll be using a method developed by the Trust to test the evidence on how to work out the most appropriate level of ambition. This isn’t to challenge the Panel’s recommendation, it is about getting at the science behind the numbers.
We’ll then be discussing what Government can do to better enable landowners to choose to create woodland and trying to work out what kind of impact this will have on the rate of woodland creation.
Conversation is always lively with a great range of experience and knowledge from entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of business development to Government officials at the cutting edge of forestry policy.
The long view
Anyone reading this blog probably shares my deep love of trees. One of the great things about them is their longevity; one of the great things about being a forester is taking the long-view operating over decades or even hundreds of years. Recently I’ve had the joy of being able to present the thousand year graph of woodland area in England (shown here). It is quite rough and ready but it basically shows about 1,000 years of decline in woodland area until the beginning of the 20th Century followed by 90 years of rapid increase, effectively reversing 600 years of woodland loss. I really like it both because of its historical perspective but also because it is a ‘good news’ story. The return to woodland expansion, by the way, coincided with the formation of the Forestry Commission. I know that with hindsight some of the woodland created is perhaps not what we would prioritise nowadays but it is a great inspiration to me to try and come up with ideas that could be as effective for as long. We know that whatever these ideas are it won’t be the Commission operating alone – the Panel’s ambitions can only be achieved if it is worked on right across society.
The short view
Nearly all my working life at the moment is taken up on developing options for responses to the Independent Panel – with Government due to respond in January 2013. We are working really closely with Defra on this, managing to get collaboration to work as it should with colleagues from the core civil service adding their expertise on how to advise Ministers and us lot from the Forestry Commission adding our expertise on how to get things done. I think that if we add the knowledge and energy from Woodland Carbon Task Force members like the Trust, Confederation of Forest Industries (ConFor), and Country Land and Business Association (CLA), we have a powerful mix that might just put something in place that reverses the remaining 400 years of woodland loss and then goes on beyond this…
Anyone can get involved in the current policy development process – we have just started an informal exercise to get people to tell us how much woodland they think is appropriate in the landscapes they know, go to www.forestry.gov.uk/england-wpc for details.”
(*The Woodland Carbon Task Force (www.forestry.gov.uk/england-wctf) was brought together by Forestry Commission England to develop new ways of bringing private finance into woodland creation in England. The Woodland Trust is part of the Task Force along with ConFor, CLA, Natural England, Environment Agency, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). We’ve been working together for a couple of years now. You may have heard of the Woodland Carbon Code. This is the kind of thing we’ve been developing. There are signs of success, with the rate of woodland creation increasing last year, although we think there is a long way to go yet.)
Dominic left an early career as a teacher to plant trees. After retraining he worked for the Woodland Trust helping communities create woodland for the millennium, on the Woods on your Doorstep project. He moved to the Forestry Commission in 2003 via an independent environmental lobby group called TirCoed. Dom has worked for Forestry Commission Wales running a community woodland grant programme, Forestry Commission Scotland as head of social policy, and currently Forestry Commission England leading the team of national policy advisers and programme managers. Dom is also in charge of Forestry Commission England’s work on woodland creation.
You can read, share and comment on all blogs we post in this Forests Report series by following Woodland Matters, and through this link: http://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/category/forests-report-2/forests-report-conversations/