Wales, like England and Ireland, is one of the least wooded countries in Europe. And if you think of all the benefits that woodland offers us – habitats for wildlife, better management of water, and opportunities for recreation as well as a supply of timber and wood fuel – then you can see that we are the poorer for it.
But with the publication of the new Woodlands for Wales strategy by Assembly Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones, Wales is at least one step closer to doing something about it.
At the launch at Carreg Cennen Castle on 27 March, Elin Jones was explicit in her message: “Woodlands and trees can make a big difference – not just to our lives but potentially to those of future generations too.” She added: “This is why this strategy sets out a bold ambition for how woodlands and trees could contribute even more if we are adventurous with our decisions now.”
So what does the new strategy say?
There’s an emphasis on increasing woodland cover, which is new for Wales. The strategy talks about giving priority to both new native woodland, and new mixed woodland that can deliver multiple benefits. Unlike Scotland which aims to create 10,000 ha of new woodland a year in order reach 25% woodland cover by the second half of the century, the strategy does not include a target for this. But the desired direction of travel is clear.
There’s a commitment to restore those areas of ancient woodland in the Assembly’s ownership that were planted with non-native trees, mostly conifers, in the last century, wherever there are ancient woodland remnant features to restore.
There’s a recognition of the value of woodland and trees in towns and cities, improving people’s quality of life and cooling down urban areas in summer.
Of course, these are only some headlines, there’s much more besides. But Elin Jones and the Forestry Commission Wales should be congratulated on the new strategy. The emphasis now has to be on delivery. Coed Cadw (the Woodland Trust in Wales) is keen to help to deliver these ambitious plans, and also, if necessary, to remind people about them!
Do you agree with this strategy? Comment and have your say here!