Guest post: Dominic Driver, Forestry Commission

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 ConForCLA, 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.)
 
About Dominic

Image: Forestry Commission with kind permission

Dominic Driver – Head of Woodland Expansion and National Expertise for Forest Services, Forestry Commission England

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: https://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/category/forests-report-2/forests-report-conversations/

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About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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11 Responses to Guest post: Dominic Driver, Forestry Commission

  1. Pingback: Guest post: Keith Jones, Forestry Commission | Woodland Matters

  2. Fascinating graph Doug and great to see that the last 100 years has seen the beginnings of recovery. Let’s hope we can get back up to the levels enjoyed during the reign of William the Conquerer!

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Mark, Dominic has asked us to post this reply on his behalf:
      “Thanks Red Rose Forest. I do like the historical perspective. Knowing the way the community forest movement is driving innovation I’m sure, though, that you don’t mean getting back to the exact forestry situation in the 11th Century. I feel we need to be creating woodland fit for the 21st Century that provides multiple-benefits to society without needing lots of Government money to keep them going. We want to see many more woods that are looked after as part of financially viable land-based businesses. Dom.”

  3. Anyone looking at climate change issues will be familiar with the infamous “hockey stick” graph (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy), showing how human activity has contributed to global warming. Dom’s alternative version, for the increase in England’s woodland cover, shows that rapid change is possible in good ways as well as bad.

    The funding challenge for such a stretching target demands new perspectives. Carbon markets can potentially play a major role and the FC’s lead in developing a code of best practice, the Woodland Carbon Code (www.forestry.gov.uk/carboncode), has brought much needed transparency and confidence to investors. Further developments, such as the introduction of mandatory greenhouse gas reporting for companies and the potential for woodland creation as an “allowable solution” under the Zero Carbon Building regulations, suggest that woodland carbon can deliver beyond the voluntary corporate responsibility arena.

    The Government can and must go further to enable the UK carbon market. There are some straightforward options that would meet business approval and unlock large income streams for woodland creation in the UK. Furthermore they link various Government policies together: woodland creation, carbon reduction, ecosystem resilience and public health to name a few.

    One example of how this might work is through the Carbon Reduction Commitment. We’ve heard from many companies that would gladly “offset” some of their liabilities through woodland creation. If the price is right (i.e. at least as high as the price of carbon permits, currently £12 per tonne), the incentive to reduce emissions would still exist, but also expand woodland cover. Many benefits would follow: an enhanced carbon sink that also improves habitat connectivity and makes for a landscape better able to weather the climate impacts ahead.

    Of course there’s an extra significance for the Woodland Trust in aspiring to pre-Norman levels of tree cover, which I’m sure our Operations Director appreciates (http://www.woodlandtrust.presscentre.com/News-Releases/New-disease-could-spell-the-end-for-the-common-ash-c4e.aspx)!

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Nick, Dominic has asked us to post this reply on his behalf:
      “Great stuff Nick. Hope folk understand that I can’t make premature comment ahead of the Government’s response to the Independent Panel on Forestry. But let’s remind everyone we are working together on this sort of thing via the Woodland Carbon Task Force. Incidentally, if anyone wants to get onto our Woodland Carbon Task Force “reference group” please e-mail your request to business.support@forestry.gov.uk. You’d get 5/6 e-mail updates a year on the latest developments in the kind of thing Nick is describing. Dom.”

  4. Jacquie Cox says:

    If the government really has “ambitions for more and better managed woodland”, is an increase of 5% by 2060 not a tad unambitious? Considering the (measurable) value of woodland in terms of climate change mitigation alone, I am wondering why such a underwhelming increase was recommended by the Panel. For me it fails to convey the urgency with which we should be tackling the reforestation of the UK. Such a tiny ask … it can’t be that important. Not a good message if you are trying to convince we, the great unwashed, that woodland is important.

    • John Winterbourne, FC Woodland Officer says:

      Just to point out that an increase from 10% land cover to 15% land cover is an increase of 50% of the current area, which is rather more ambitious!

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Jacquie, Dominic has asked us to post this reply to you on his behalf (hope you can access the images ok):
      “Jacquie. Many thanks for reading the blog and responding in such ambitious vein. The Panel’s recommendation is actually for a 50% increase in the area of woodland (10% to 15% land cover) by 2060. This means increasing the rate of woodland creation from about 3,000ha per year as it is now to 15,000ha per year starting next year every year and then sustained every year for the next 47 years. The fastest rate achieved by the nation in recent times was about 6,000ha per year in the early 1990s. Over the past 100 years or so (the upturn bit of the thousand year graph) it has averaged about 5,000 ha per year. Here are a couple more graphs that illustrate this (https://wtcampaigns.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/wctf1.jpg) (https://wtcampaigns.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/wctf2.jpg). What do you reckon? Dom.”

      • Jacquie Cox says:

        Hi Dom, and John … thanks for your replies. I reckon its all about presentation. I am aware that it’s actually a 50% increase, but when you are starting from such a low point in a country that was once largely wooded …

        As we know, people are often too busy to read anything but the headlines. So it’s all in the presentation of, lets face it … rather dry and not so sexy facts about woodland. People need to know what that increase from 10% to 15% means, without having to read the detail. A 50% increase in woodland – now that’s a headline!

        Keep up the good work!

  5. Dom – I like the long view taken by the graph – very descriptive – Pete

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