Help shape the future of England’s forests

To help develop its response to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report, Defra has published the first of a series of short public surveys. This will help shape the Government’s decision around the future of England’s forests, woods and trees. Please do take a few moments to feed your views into this process.

Woodland Trust Chief Executive, Sue Holden, said: “Following the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report, which clearly documented the enormous potential of forests, woods and trees and highlighted a real need to increase woodland cover in England, the Government is now offering everyone the chance to shape its plan for the sustainable management of our forests. I would encourage all who care about the future of England’s woodland, including the woods and trees in their neighbourhood, to respond to this survey as a matter of priority. It is vital that we all play our part, keeping pressure on Government to deliver a plan for our woodland that works.”

Defra asks in the survey:
1. Do you want to see more woodland created in or near to your local community?
2. If yes, what single thing would make the biggest difference to increasing the amount of woodland in or near your community?
3. What would encourage you to visit local woodland more?
4. Do you buy British timber products? If not, why not?

If you love forests, woods and trees please do try to find the time to respond. Thank you!

Kay Haw, Assistant Conservation Adviser

About Kay Haw

Assistant Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust. Nature is my passion, especially woods and trees which are just amazing elements of life. One day (soon) I hope we humans learn to work in harmony with Mother Earth.
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17 Responses to Help shape the future of England’s forests

  1. This is a great post. But why only for England? We need this all over the World. If you trying to save only England, can save your future? We must save our world. Thank you very much for nice post.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Thanks for your comment and Hello Two Steps! This particular campaign is focused on the future of England’s forests as that’s what the Independent Panel on Forestry was asked to report on; forestry is a devolved issue in the UK which means each government in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland is responsible. But you’re right, all forests need protection and care! You can help the Trust plant, restore and fight for the UK’s forests, woods and trees by taking part in our campaigns and supporting us, and it’s very important to tell the right people that you want more trees, and how much the existing woodland you have means to you, where you are too🙂

  2. Kaye Brennan says:

    Thanks for your comment Alex – it’s still not yet clear what Defra has planned for the next few months to get more of the views from ‘stakeholders’ through these proposed ‘conversations’ (Defra’s words); as Kay says above this survey is the first of what we expect to be many needed to cover all the issues the Panel raised in its recommendations. I agree the scope and content of this first one is limited, we are feeding this and other comments we’ve received right back to Defra.
    The Trust is really keen to make sure the passion so many people showed for forests, trees and woods in 2011 isn’t forgotten by the Government after so long (it’s already been 18 months since the initial consultation), so it’s hugely important we can all encourage as many people as we can to reply to the survey/s and get involved in this. You’re right, we do need to remain tireless in getting the positive changes woods need – like so much of our natural world and even more so, they are worth it!🙂

  3. Alex Oliver says:

    Surveys are as we have perhaps ascertained geared towards proving or disproving certain things that suit a particular agenda. Their only value is to those who wish to use them, statistically or similarly. Seldom will any comments by respondents be suitably answered; like council meetings and letters pages, phone ins etc, this is all hot air and a waste of some meaningful arguement. I am finding that whilst the Woodland Trust is a sound organ, we can also apply pressure through avaaz and similar online groups (I say group, there are thousands upon thousands of members).

    Governmental bodies are crushed under the heels of MP ambition and corporate arrogance. Thankfully the numbers of those opposing such ignorance are growing. I’m afraid we must work tirelessly to allow nature to get on with things and remain committed – we had to stop raising funds for tiger conservation but are looking at restarting due to the mess this is in twenty years after Valmik Thapar told us we could lose the tiger in just ten. I’m glad you are all out there and putting your views across – and even gladder that the trust is eager to hear them.

  4. Kay Haw says:

    The survey is written by Defra not the Woodland Trust. Perhaps voicing your concerns to them would encurage them to create a better one. I believe this is just the first in a series of surveys. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Helen Ward says:

    The survey is terrible! It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t seem sure what its asking. What a wasted opportunity. Can you rewrite it and ask people to do it again?

  6. David McCormick says:

    I agree that this survey hasn’t been done well. The last question could have been worded better as when we say “timber” as there is three main types, from plantations (Conifers etc..) and those from “Managed woodland” and those from unsustainable sources and that question leaves this answer untouched making it seem that whatever the answer, it won’t let you say where the British timber comes from. Even the option “No, I don’t think British trees should be cut down to make things” isn’t really good as it doesn’t say if the trees are from native woodland, plantations etc… even how you feel the woodlands could be managed to provide proper sustainable timber.

    Jacquie Cox is right with the DEFRA survey, how can any of these issues most of us have, actually be addressed? I think they care for only getting the answers they want to have rather than what the public really wants and our forests may be worse of for it.

    I also mainly agree with Philippa Pountney here. When it comes to proper management of forests, in my view, a tree that takes as long as an oak to grow and does support the most amount of wildlife of any tree, any oak trees over a certain age (past the point where they can start really supporting wildlife, I’d think 50 years or above) they should remain and be protected. Trees like Alder, willows and hazels can be coppiced and I think birch can be too? And this would get timber but also help the trees live longer and the area they grow in.

    I have been in areas with mature oaks, beech and ash trees and I have seen their majestic forms and benefits to wildlife and can understand the importance to protect these trees which have been there longer than we have.

    I have been to the same woodland for years and many years ago (sometime in mid 90s) a lot of the mature oak trees were felled for “Quick timer” and the owner of the forest was away on holiday and came back to find most of the trees gone but wasn’t happy, but that didn’t undo the damage. Now there is lots of younger (10-15+ year old) oak trees, but they are not planted right (too close together in some areas) and now some are not fairing well and there is also a lot of conifer trees here now too (Larch and Norway Spruce) where there wasn’t before (Probably thinking the conifers would hide the fact trees were taken away). I have seen this a few times, mature native trees are felled and replaced with non native conifers which don’t have any benefit for wildlife at all compared to the native trees. Even in the woodland I mentioned, the conifers are not bothered with which doesn’t help the wildlife there.

    I know the threats to our forests first hand and know more needs to be done so that we the public (who own much of the forests) will get a say in the future of our native forests.

  7. Luke Wiseman says:

    I would like to respond to both the stands of comment above.
    The first (about the quality of the questions). I agree with Jacquie Cox. The questions are rather curiously worded, and quite possibly are that way in order to elicit a particular response. I was expecting more questions along the lines of “Do you like and value woodland?” and so on.
    The second (about cutting mature trees). There is always a difference between those who plant and grow trees looking upon them as a slow growing crop, in much the same way as a gardener looks upon a row of lovingly tended carrots. The gardener does not expect the row of carrots to be there forever, no matter how beautiful it may look. Likewise a forester does not expect an individual tree to be growing forever. The differences between the two things (carrots and trees) are that we cannot walk between the carrots and that they don’t last for decades and, possibly, centuries. Sensible and sensitive felling of trees makes better conditions for those trees that remain and means that new tree seeds can germinate. Properly done a forest can be self regenerating almost indefinitely and still allow us humans to walk in its green shade. The individual trees will grow and die or be felled, but the woodland will remain. The difficulty is to have the management done in such a way that only some trees are felled at any one time and the rest remain. Clear felling, when all the trees are cut down at one time usually leaves a horrible mess, which is then cleared up by replanting. Traditional forest crafts, such as hazel hurdle making involve cutting the trees on a certain rhythm of time (seven years for hazel) leaving more space for new growth. These crafts are labour intensive, but wonderful.

    • Philippa Pountney says:

      Can’t see any connection between ancient oak trees and rows of carrots! Vegetables are fast growing and a food source. Our mature oak trees in woodlands and forests have not been planted. They take about 300 – 400 years to reach maturity and can live for a thousand years. It is unfortunate that the conifer plantations managed by the Forestry Commission replaced huge areas of ancient natural woodland but these fast growing non native trees were sustainable and provided a continuous supply of timber.
      Forests and woodlands have always been self generating and managed their own health through natural selection so that the strongest trees lived longer than the weaker. Woodland management now involves arbitrary decisions on which trees should be felled and which allowed to continue for the full life span. In this area we have witnessed dreadful examples where oddly shaped oaks have been left isolated and then have been brought down by storm damage. Large areas of woodland floor suddenly exposed to too much light has led to a severe loss of native flora such as anemones and bluebells. There is very little sign that new trees are springing up in these ‘managed ‘ woodlands even after a decade but there are plenty of brambles and nettles.
      The ancient trees in our woodlands and forests deserve protection and proper care. They are not a resource to be destroyed and used as firewood or as building materials. Better to put funding and effort into extending, linking or complementing existing fragmented woodland through acquiring non wooded acreage to establish coppiced zones where previously they did not exist.
      As most of our woodlands and forests are publicly owned there should be full consultation over this issue with people fully and accurately informed.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Luke, thanks for your comment. I hope you were able to tell this to Defra🙂 There’s certainly more room for traditional forest crafts and non-timber forest products than we seem to have at present

  8. Mrs V Bradbury says:

    I think that the comments made by Phillippa Pountney ‘say it all’. A very thoughtful and well written answer that encompasses all that I would have liked to say. I love to walk in my woodlands and along the local rights of way. Recently I was walking through a wood with some really ancient oaks. I also think that the Beech tree is now very important to local woodlands especially to encourage bluebells. Please use all available space to plant new woodland and especially where local people walk. I understand the Foresty Commission are combining with the Chatsworth Estate to plant a new woodland for the Queen’s Jubilee.

  9. Philippa Pountney says:

    My greatest concern is that the word ‘sustainable ‘applied to woodland seems to allow managers (eg Forestry Commission) to remove hardwood trees such as oaks hundreds of years old for firewood or timber products. In this locality we have watched this happening in an ancient oak woodland where around 30 trees have been removed and more marked for felling in the future. Also, non native trees such as beeches that have become part of our heritage should be protected. Question no 4 is actually asking people to recognise that we all use timber products and possibly give the green light to the continuing plundering of some of our most special and beautiful woodlands. Replanting programmes cannot replace our ancient trees and these should be given proper protection wherever they are growing. Management plans need careful consideration and proper consultation with the public who must have access to full and detailed information.

  10. Jacquie Cox says:

    The second question makes no sense and I said as much when I completed the survey. How do they hope to get any real input if they don’t even know how to frame the questions?

    • Maureen says:

      not much positive
      help just to criticise offer your ‘better’ alternative question?

      • Jacquie Cox says:

        I did Maureen – three in fact – directly to Defra via the survey that I completed. I have some experience with responding to consultations so I know how the process works. The questions are framed by civil servants based on whichever topic is out for consultation. Many of these civil servants have little experience of or knowledge about the topic on which they are framing questions. Often, they ask questions in order to get the particular answers they want. Hence my comment – if they are framing the questions in an ambiguous or frankly nonsensical way as they have here, then the answers they receive will be of limited value and even more limited influence. They then collate all the responses and formulate policy based either on their own agenda, or in the rare case when they actually want our opinions, based on our opinions. They then present the relevant Minister with the evidence for a particular policy, and that is what we are lumped with. There is no point stating my ‘better’ questions here as this is a Woodland Trust blog, not the Defra survey – the two are not related.

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