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!
The 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!