A late Christmas present for England’s forests?

Well, Christmas is nearly here but so is the Government’s response to the final report of the Independent Panel on Forestry, we hope. 

It was back in the heady days of summer, just before Olympic fever set in, that Caroline Spelman and Lord Taylor received the Panel’s report from its Chair, the Bishop of Liverpool, and we were all promised a time for ‘conversation’ about the Report’s findings and conclusions to shape the official response. We tried to encourage these conversations with a special blog series featuring guest blogs on various themes in the Report which so far has generated over 2,500 views and scores of comments.

Of course, since July a lot has happened – not least in the appointment of a new Secretary of State, and a new Forestry Minister, and ash dieback has mushroomed into a sylvan crisis, the like of which has not been seen since the 1970’s and Dutch elm disease.

Below the radar of ash dieback media mania, another remarkable show of public interest in the world of trees has been quietly building momentum. Almost 15,000 people took action with us to urge the new Secretary of State to adopt the Panel’s findings as whole through our ‘Tell Owen’ campaign. Furthermore over 1,000 forwarded to the Trust the response from their MP; over 230 MPs replied to their constituent’s messages.  DEFRA described the response from supporters as ‘phenomenal’ and so do we!

ipf-reportThe question of course is will ash dieback distract the government from publishing a full and detailed response to the Panel at the end of January as planned – or will the impetus of ash dieback show the even greater relevance of the Panel’s recommendations in creating a more resilient woodland landscape for the future?

I have heard understandable fears from some that ash dieback will knock the Panel’s conclusions into the shade, but the two issues are inextricably linked. Ash dieback and the growing threat of tree disease is but a startling symptom of the underlying need to ensure our wooded landscapes are robust enough to survive whatever is thrown at them in the future.  If ever the time was right for a commitment to investing in our trees and woods this is it and the Panel report eloquently describes the case for doing so.

So ‘Happy Christmas’ to all our blog readers and hopefully it’ll be a happier Christmas for our trees, woods and forests – even if it comes at the end of January!

About Hilary Allison

Policy Director, Woodland Trust
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Forests Report, Government Affairs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A late Christmas present for England’s forests?

  1. Pingback: The Taylor Review – One present from the Government that we do not want to send back! | Woodland Matters

  2. Roderick Leslie says:

    Hilary, I think you are right to be concerned. I was even more concerned that with the amount of Defra talk about the triennial review of Defra agencies we were heading for the sort of administrative carve up – amalgamations etc – which Government’s resort to when they don’t know what to do. That’s off the table – but the panel getting sidelined remains a real risk – but to politicians as much as trees.

    Sadly, we are going to get our woodland culture – but in the worst possible way, as people get more and more interested in trees because they are dying. For the same reason, and sadly, trees are not going away as a political issue.

    In fact, what is happening hugely reinforces what the Government has to do – in particular at the very least making contact with ALL woodland owners in England as soon as possible. Yet again in this debate the point that nearly half England’s woods aren’t managed is being lost – the discussion is between Government & the people who manage (including WT). But Ash could be the most ‘undermanaged’ major species in England – there could be more unmanaged Ash woods than any other species, possibly excepting Oak. What this means to me is a spectacular new threat to our ancient woodlands: when the Ash die many woods will regenerate with other species without even planting. But FC experience of restoration in places like Northants shows a proportion of woods won’t regrow. Along with some where people destroy the wood for their own purposes – eg development – we face potentially massive loss. And the picture is even worse for non-woodland trees – the record (the FC national inventory) implies strongly that lost non-woodland trees are simply not replaced – they’ve declined sharply over the last 20 years and face near Armageddon as the Ash die.

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