So you thought the Forestry Commission was safe?

Today is the very first International Day of Forests designated by the United Nations to celebrate forests globally.  But do we have much to celebrate especially in England? In many ways yes, especially with renewed public passion and concern. 

For example, I expect you thought the Forestry Commission in England was safe now that plans to sell off the public forest estate have been well and truly ditched and the government has announced it will set up a new kind of public body to hold the nation’s forests in trust

Well, half of the Commission may be safe but the other half isn’t. The Forestry Commission not only owns and manages the public forest estate (about 18% of the total area of woodland in England) but just as importantly the part known as ‘Forest Services’ also offers advice, support and grants, and regulates the activities on the other 82% of England’s woodland which is in private ownership. 

If we want a new woodland culture in England, this is where most of the action needs to take place. But it is this 82% by area which presents the greatest challenge for those seeking a real change in our attitude to woodland – it provides less than 60% by area of all the accessible woodland in England, it only produces 40% of all softwood timber harvested and only 47% is in a programme of management supported by public funds[i].  Forest Services has a big task on its hands. 

And let’s not forget Forest Services’ other functions of research and setting high standards of sustainable management shared with opposite numbers in Scotland and Wales. 

Yet it is Forest Services whose uncertain future is now tangled up with that of two other government environmental bodies: Natural England (the government’s adviser on nature conservation) and the Environment Agency (the government’s environmental regulator on rivers, flooding and pollution). Both are currently subject to their once-in-three-year review by government though Forest Services is not technically part of this. 

Forest organisations including Our Forests, the Royal Forestry Society and CONFOR are almost universally united in their concern that the already emasculated Forest Services (subject to budget cuts of 25% cut in the past 3 years) will quietly slip into a coma and out of existence. On the other hand, there is an argument that a merger of Forest Services with Natural England into a new forest and wildlife service may create a stronger voice for wildlife.

Here are three reasons why that argument doesn’t stand up and why Forest Services needs to retain its own identity:

  1. No reorganisation of environmental bodies has been achieved in the last 30 years without massive emotional turmoil and turbulence for staff and without decreasing overall effectiveness. The risk here is of a haemorrhaging of skills, experience and knowledge – the cost is too high and the time is wrong in the face of the tree disease crisis;
  2. Forest Services is currently responsible for promoting the social and economic aspects of sustainable forestry as well as an environmental and wildlife agenda; so for example it gives grants and advice to woodland owners on promoting timber production and establishing wood supply chains. These are important functions, yet how can these sit comfortably within a wildlife-focused organisation?
  3. The renaissance of forests and woods as a means of tackling multiple public policy issues often simultaneously –(e.g. carbon sequestration, water quality, soil conservation, human health, high quality green infrastructure in towns and cities, climate cooling in cities and renewable resources) – will in all probability stutter to a halt in a body devoted to a single focus around wildlife conservation. Of course woods are critical wildlife habitats but they are even more than that – they offer a unique amalgam of environmental services underpinning the health of both natural and human worlds. 

DEFRA has invited many of its stakeholders to a workshop sometime in April to outline their thinking and to ask our views on what they call “future governance arrangements” for forestry functions. Will they already have decided what to do? David Heath, the Forestry Minister, is already inclining towards a merger judging by recent remarks to the All Party Conservation Group. But we doubt he has heard the anti-merger arguments clearly so far.

So are you worried about the bit of Forestry Commission you were almost unaware of?

You should be. Let us know your thoughts about the future of Forest Services below and we’ll pass them on wherever and whenever we can. 

 Hilary Allison – Policy Director

[i] These figures come from the Independent Panel on Forestry report July 2012

About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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29 Responses to So you thought the Forestry Commission was safe?

  1. John says:

    Put not your faith in ‘Perfidious Albion’ they will let you down. The present government did not get its way so they adopt the death by a thousand cuts policy. When our trees are converted to wood chip it will be to late.

  2. Rowen Wilting. says:

    I agree with some of what you are saying Garin……..but, some of us ( with over 30 years experience) in the ‘manual’ jobs would have liked the chance to have stayed…..& passed on our experience in the forest crafts.
    I don’t think any of us were in it for the pay!

  3. Garin Linnington says:

    I currently work as a woodland officer for Forest Services, it has taken almost 30 years of study and work experience to get here. I have moved from the private, to public, to private, to public, to private and recently to the public sector again, all over the UK. The experiences I have gained are just what the country needs to support and promote the needs of the forest industry. But, something which escapes critical analysis in these austere times is the plight of those that work in the public sector of forestry. The Westminster government’s response to the forest panel, stated that it would retain expertise in the public sector. How will Forest Services retain experienced staff? Forest Services is already stretched too far, work loads are dramatically increasing and it is very poorly resourced; fact. However, pay and reward systems in the FC are bust as a result of the Westminster government’s pay freeze and annual increment freeze. Each pay grade has two to four pay points, with the minimum being the new recruit point (supposedly for inexperienced staff, the reality is most are already experienced on entry), and the maximum being the ‘rate for the job’ for fully effective staff. It takes several years to reach the ‘rate for the job’, The expectation being that fully effective, and experienced staff should be able to achieve the ‘rate for the job’ in 5 years or less (the Equality Act 2010 on age discrimination makes it illegal to take more than 5 years to reach the top of a pay scale). But, with many staff below the ‘rate for the job’, the end of annual increments is causing huge pay inequalities in the FC. There is little relation between relevant experience, qualifications and performance with pay and reward, often experienced staff, recruited from the private sector are stuck near the bottom of the pay scale. Unless the pay inequalities in the FC are dealt with, and it becomes competitive on pay, much needed experienced staff (whether gained from private or public sectors) will be lost, as they seek better opportunities elsewhere. Experienced staff do not grow on trees! Without experienced, credible, motivated staff, Forest Services will certainly slip into a coma as this article describes. This is not a response regarding public vs private sector, or political ideology, but a warning that poor retention of experienced staff in Forest Services is an unseen threat to its well-being and the well-being of the greater forest industry.

  4. Pingback: The Future of Forest Services: Joint letter to the Secretary of State | Woodland Matters

  5. Imogen Radford says:

    Although I think Woodland Trust is spot-on in relation to the future
    of Forest Services, I am puzzled by the statement in the 3rd
    paragraph, relating to the part of the Forestry Commission which runs
    the public forest estate: “… half of the commission may be safe…”

    I’m not convinced that the Forestry Commission is made safe by having
    part of it turned into a separate independent body or organisation,
    potentially split off from the rest of the Forestry Commission. We can
    hope that if this happens this new body is public, but that is not
    certain.

    The government’s response to the forestry panel report nowhere says
    explicitly that the body will be public. And it is not clear whether
    it will be a new organisation, separate from the Forestry Commission,
    or whether it will become separate once it is ‘evolved’ from the
    Forest Enterprise part of the Forestry Commission.

    The government’s response says:

    “…legislation will be needed to develop Forest Enterprise England into
    the kind of independent, entrepreneurial body…” (p26,
    http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/2013/01/31/pb13871-forestry-policy-statement/)

    “We also agree with the Panel that a separate Public Forest Estate
    management organisation should be established …”

    “We intend that the new body, which will be evolved from Forest
    Enterprise England, should be operationally independent of Government,
    which will play no direct role in its day-to-day affairs. However, as
    the manager of publicly-owned assets and the recipient of Government
    funding, its Board will continue to report to Parliament through the
    Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.” (Rec 25,
    p43)

    The implications for the Forestry Commission — if part of it is split
    off to run the PFE — are far-reaching. Different parts of the
    organisation work together, each learning from each other, each
    benefiting each other, and the whole benefiting us all.

    At the moment the Forestry Commission’s future does not feel very safe.

    I hope I’m proved wrong.

    The government statement makes it clear that they value the Forestry
    Commission and its achievements very highly (unlike the independent
    forestry panel report – you will search in vain through that for any
    statement recognising those achievements, but quite a few expressing a
    wish for it to change).

    But the government needs to value the Forestry Commission in reality –
    by funding it securely to do its important work, and by stating
    publicly that it is safe for the future as a vibrant important and
    valuable organisation and that all parts of it working well together
    mean that it will play the key role in the future of all our forests
    and woods.

  6. Tony says:

    I must say it does seem odd that the government and perhaps all governments across the world always believe that where they can cut costs they will, even when it means the knowledge-base is lost. To me, that whole process is absurd. Nevertheless, maybe someone’s loss is another person’s gain. This whole saga appears to be yet another case of “bugger the consequences”, the here and now is more important. A long-term vision for our forests, I think not?

  7. CC says:

    The map showing the spread of confirmed cases of Chalara has recently been updated http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/UK_outbreak_map_13-03-25_Map2b.pdf/$FILE/UK_outbreak_map_13-03-25_Map2b.pdf
    It seems clear from the distribution of the ourbreaks that we are dealing with at least two probable sources of infection ~ windblown from across the Channel/North Sea infecting trees in areas such as East Anglia/ Kent and Sussex. and infections on recently planted areas where the spore could well have been nurtured in tree nurseries. It was of course first reported as being present in stock found in a Buckinghamshire Nursery last spring.
    It’s very easy to be wise after the event ~ we have a natural tendancy to blame Governments and their various agencies for allowing an infection to be spread. But responsibilities need to be shared by all involved in the industry and lessons need to be learnt.
    The writing has been on the wall for some years ~ the information on the spread of Chalara across Europe was available to tree growers in trade publications and the internet. On recognising the threat, the Horticulteral trade body even sent a delegation to Europe and returned to advise Government of the approaching risks. But they seem to have done nothing to advise their own members ~ some nurseries continued to source some of their stock from seeds that were germinated in European nurseries. The apparent rapid spread of the disease across the UK must surely have been helped by our own commercial trade practices.
    Where the disease is spread by the wind there is very little you can do to stop this happening. Where you are planting trees however we need to be more thorough in investigating the source of the supply. Attitudes have to change ~ the source of the supply is more important than cost and availability.

  8. Andy Hobbs says:

    Firstly, I hope your Ash crop remains free from disease.
    The chalara (Ash die-back) has been sat on our doorstep for a long time.
    Did you not research before deciding on a species to plant?
    I’m surprised that the F.C have advised landowners to plant this species in the last couple of years
    & even more surprised if they Grant aiding the plantings.
    I spent time planting Sweet-chestnut last winter, this was on a 3 ha. previously planted with Corsican Pine. The owner said he would have preferred a Larch crop,but planting that was out of the question with the current problems.

    • James Cope says:

      Thank you for your hopes Andy, but I am afraid I may have Chalara in my new plantation.
      I don’t know yet because the FC have not had time to come and look at it.
      I confess I did not realise that Chalara was likely to be a problem. I naïvely assumed that the Forestry Commission would highlight any potential problems when considering my planting plan – I am a farmer not a forestry specialist. There was absolutely no mention of it. I am not aware of any effective measures being in place to prevent the import of this disease. When I brought this up with my local FC office, they washed their hands of any responsibility, saying it was a matter of free movement of goods. I do not recall free movement of goods being a big issue to the French during the BSE crisis.
      To my mind the eradication of species resulting from the reckless trade in plants around the world is a far greater and more real problem than that of climate change. Unfortunately the FC seems to have been prancing about on the dubious climate change bandwagon rather than concentrating on the stuff that really matters.
      I know there are many excellent people who work for the FC, but I really feel that those who are in charge of strategy really need to consider what is important. So many tree diseases seem to have been imported that one hardly knows what to plant. The prospect of more species of trees being wiped out is too depressing for words.
      I think we need to have strict rules in place limiting the distance from the nursery that any plant can be grown and a complete ban on the import of any plants, forestry or garden. This would of course be difficult for many businesses, but it is desperately important to stop the spread of these diseases.

      • James says:

        The latest news I have from the FC is that they aren’t going to check whether I have Chalara in my ash plantation – but they would be happy to charge me £230 to test plant material sent to them for the presence of the causal agent of ash dieback.
        Wonderful.

  9. Andy Hobbs says:

    <>

    Sawmill owners need a constant & regular supply of timber of a known size & quality. The market needs steady prices for fuelwood merchants & sawmills to survive.
    If private owners sat on standing timber & tried to hike up prices by market starvation, many sawmills would soon close.Their profit margins are not that high.
    The F.C provide a regular supply, on often long term contracts, that is vital to the mills survival.
    Many private woodland owners have a habit of felling timber only when it was at it’s heaviest ( full of sap)
    & demanding a quick removal to the sawmill or fuel wood merchant, selling by weight maximizing their income.
    The foreign market is capable of supplying timber,often superior in quality, to our home grown produce, & at very competitive prices.
    The consumers would opt for this if prices were to get much higher.
    The F.C plays a part in regulating the industry & hopefully stopping it becoming out of control like the other energy & fuel industries.
    The F.C like the mills & fuelwood merchants provide rural employment, (which is becoming hard to find ) very few woodland owners use full time forest workers.

    Apologies for bad grammar & punctuation, I am not a scholar I’m a Forestry worker (not F.C).

  10. James Cope says:

    Why should the Government be involved in commercial forestry? Should it buy up and run farmland? I think not.
    There is an inherent absurdity in a body that regulates woodlands and administers grants whilst owning and managing vast tracts of commercial forestry. Clive Coles says ” The Forestry Commission are constituted to maintain a steady flow of timber to the market year on year. By contrast the private woodland owner likes to fell when prices are high so as to maximise profit. it suits them for prices to fluctuate.” This is madness. Putting timber into the market regardless of demand sounds like the kind of policy favoured by Mao Tse Tung. There is an implication that private businesses are wrong not to sell timber at a loss. It beggars belief.
    I can’t say I have been overly impressed by the performance of the FC over chalara ash die-back. Nothing effective seems to have been done to prevent infected material being imported until it was too late. I planted 6ha of ash for coppicing last spring and no-one from the FC thought to contact me and warn me that they had let this disastrous disease into the country. When I have spoken to them subsequently they washed their hands of any responsibility and muttered about free movement of goods. This is an organisation as much in need of a massive shake-up as the NHS (think Mid Staffs et al). I fail to see any synergistic benefits from the present set-up, rather a conflict of interest. The commercial forestry operation should be sold off with public access covenants if thought appropriate and the regulatory side should start working to avoid another fiasco like chalara.

    • Clive Coles says:

      The provision of a sustainable supply of home grown timber has always been a core purpose of the Forestry Commission. To quote from the Forestry panel’s report ” The Forestry Act 1919 established the Forestry Commission and the Commissioners were charged with the general duty of promoting the interests of forestry, the development of afforestation, and the production and supply of timber, in the United Kingdom”. These aspirations were contained within the provisions of the Royal Charter.

      Just about all businesses needs either wood, or wood derived products. The PFE (18% of our forests and woodlands) generates 60% of the softwood timber we need). The remaining 82% of forest and woodland ( largely in private hands) only generates 40% of our soft wood timber requiremants. The fact that FC are active in the commercial timber market helps to stabilise that market and maintain supply.

      I cannot believe it is in the national interest to sell off the PFE commercial forestry operation, ast you appear to advocate , just so that private landowner can have less competition. The Government tried to legislate so that that was possible 2 years ago. Even they now recognise this was wrong.

      The Forestry Commission has, over these last 94 years, sustained this national need for a supply of home grown timber. The support activities run by Forest Services and Forest Research are integral to the success of that operation. Now, in my view, is not the time to fragment a proven enterprise.

    • Garin Linnington says:

      If you had any connection or direct knowledge of the timber user and processing industry, you’d be aware just how damaging the unpredictable nature of timber supply is to the ‘private’ timber processing sector. Large scale timber processors cannot invest and develop sawmills etc without guarantee of timber supply. The FC provides long term production forecasts underpinning long term contracts, which enables large scale investors to invest ‘private sector’ money. Meanwhile, the unpredictability of timber supply from the private growers sector in Scotland was the primary reason why the sell-off of e.g. FC Scotland was resisted by the ‘private sector’ processors. If you sell off the FC, the forests become fragmented in ownership and ultimately timber supply is no longer guaranteed. Private forest owners also download woodland grants, obtain tax exemptions, and expansion of the private sector forestry would also require a huge expansion of FC Forest Services to deal with the increase in grant applications, net result a huge increase in cost to the tax payer. So if you want to peddle such nonsense, how are you going to guarantee 1.3 million cubic metres of timber to say the timber processors in the south of Scotland, find an increase in tax payers money to fund a huge increase in woodland grants, expand FC Forest Services and pay for tax exemptions? PS I’ve worked all over the UK in both public and private sector forestry so have a good idea what’s what!

      • James Cope says:

        So, the way to guarantee food supplies to the processors would be to privatise farmland?
        Plantings by the FC presumably cost about as much as plantings by the private sector. Does the FC pay tax on its operations? No, and not just because it makes a loss. I fail to see how, from a national budgetary point of view, it is right for the government to sit on these huge loss-making assets in order to prop up the timber processors. If the demand is there the private sector would be able to supply the needs of the industry. I can quite understand why the processors would resist an end to the very convenient (for them) arrangement of a guaranteed supply of cheap timber, but I fail to see why the nation as a whole would feel this was a good use of public money.

        • Clive Coles says:

          I have to dispute the assertion that the Government is just sitting on a huge loss making asset. In the January Government response to the Forestry panel report they stated (on page 11).:- “The forestry and primary timber processing sector contributes £1.7bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy, supporting around 43,000 jobs”.

          The Forestry Commission should be congratulated not derided. It is quite wrong to suggest that the Forestry Commission does not pay tax so as to avoid making a loss. They are an agency of Government ~ Government does not levy tax on itself.

          The big challenge for the future is how to encourage the Private Woodland owners to respond to the Forestry Report to manage their woodlands more effectively for the greater good . They own or manage 80% of the woodland cover in England ~ the Forestry Commission manages less than 20% The bulk of the homegrown timber need however (almost 80%) is supplied by the Public Forest Estate. Contrary to what has been suggested, the private sector has not for many years been able to supply the volume of timber required by the timber processing industry.

          It must surely be in the national interest for the homegrown timber market to be sustained and expanded. A responsibility for both public and private sectors.

          I believe the Public Forest Estate provides “good value” across many facets of Estate management ( public access and recreation , wildlife and conservation, environmental and commercial benefit) ~ an excellent use of public money.

          • James Cope says:

            I was not suggesting that the FC doesn’t pay tax to avoid making a loss, I was responding to Garin Linnington’s point that we would need to “find an increase in tax payers money to fund a huge increase in woodland grants and pay for tax exemptions.”
            As for the figures comparing FC and private woodland, what are the figures for commercial plantations?
            A clue as to why the private sector has not been producing as much timber as it might may be the the FC has been operating at a loss i.e. producing timber uneconomically.

  11. A Rothschild says:

    Many thousands of us reacted with shock and disbelief to the government’s blatant attempt to sell-off large parts of our forest estate. What we really need now is some kind of legal protection for forests. This is a long shot, but would it be appropriate to petition for a Royal Charter for the Forestry Commission and its component parts? These seem to work for organisations like the BBC. The Privy Council has a webpage which offers guidance on how to petition for one, if you believe it is worth pursuing:
    http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/applying-for-a-royal-charter/
    This may be a non-starter but, if it worked, our forests would have considerably more protection, as any amendments to the Charter and its bye-laws would need Privy Council approval; this would complicate things for any government which failed to recognise the crucial importance of our public forest estate.

  12. Joan Fairhurst says:

    So often reorganisation becomes the consumer of human energy. There continues to be massive change in forestry practice as the knowledge base evolves. The Woodland Trust is an inspiring body which achieves so much in encouraging interaction with the wider public. Maintaining a strategic approach for sustainable forestry and tackling threats of disease must be paramount. Collaboration across the elements of the FC in the UK remains vital. Any reduction in specialist knowledge in FC would be a serious mistake and incorporation into a broader environmental body would result in a dilution of effectiveness. Allowing Scotland and Wales to operate to their own FC objectives does seem to have been a good idea but restructuring seems to have become incessant.

    • CC says:

      The Forestry Commission in Wales is already being transferred into a new body ~ Natural Resources Wales. The move takes effect in just over a weeks time.http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-92HEY8. When I read this statement I am concerned for the future of our Welsh forests and woodlands. There is hardly any reference to forestry or woodland sustainability ~ the focus of the new organisation seems to be planning, development and the environment.

  13. Liz says:

    Why is it that when we have something the rest of the world admires, government and/or private companies think it should be changed by them – i.e the NHS and now the FC. First they cut back year on year on the funding, and then begin making a range of changes. After a while – things start to go wrong so obviously (to them) best thing is to merge it with another organisation or get rid of it altogether.
    Please leave the FC to do what they do so well, it’s what people wanted and the Independent Panel supported that.

  14. Andy Hobbs says:

    It’s nice to see support for the F.C! So many have spent years voicing only critical comments regarding their work.
    They are a multi-talented organisation, the mainstay of woodland research & tree health, the backbone of all things forestry & woodland related. Also controlling & managing heathlands, wetlands, mires & rivers.
    They have some of the best conservation brains in the country working for them.
    To fragment them would be a disaster….the departments all have different names but, they work as one big team.
    If anything, move Natural England into the F.C they both come under DEFRA.
    But Why the change….the Ministers usually have nothing but praise for the F.C…. if it ain’t broke etc. etc.
    I am starting to think that they are making changes for changes sake.
    These ideas are not to reduce the expenditure, we all know that the work has to be done if we are to preserve our woodlands & other F.C managed habitats. To bring in private agencies is always false economy, either in quality of service, or actual financial outlay. ….who is going to give out the grants?…Lord Cavendish & Lord de Mauley’s chum I expect!

    We don’t need any change in the F.C.

  15. Imogen Radford says:

    This support for the Forestry Commission from the Woodland Trust is very welcome, and absolutely right.

    The Forestry Commission is made up of more than two parts, and I think it’s important to understand what it does, how what different parts of it do and how they linked together, and why these are so important to forestry in this country.

    We probably are all more familiar with the part of it which currently runs the public forest estate so well, Forest Enterprise England. This organisation, an executive agency and a public corporation, has six local districts across the country, and like all parts of the organisation has been subject to 25% budget cuts, to the extent that forest campaigners are very concerned about the impact (http://saveourwoods.co.uk/forest-campaigns-network/public-forest-estate-open-letter-to-defra-the-treasury-from-the-forests-campaigns-network/ )

    Another extremely important part is Forest Services, and I think that Woodland Trust is absolutely spot on in its arguments for this organisation to retain its own identity. It is so important for the future of all our woods and forests. It is also very important that it remains part of the Forestry Commission, rather than going it alone or getting merged with another organisation which has a very different remit, leading to loss of focus on forestry and all the multiple aspects of sustainable forestry.

    There are further parts to this important organisation — the Forestry Commission Great Britain — which has been in existence nearly 100 years, building on its many achievements and evolving over time to meet changing priorities.

    These are the forestry support and corporate functions of Forestry Commission Great Britain and of FC England, extensively used by and interrelated with the two parts of the Forestry Commission already described and understood by many. These functions include international aspects of forestry, plant health (brought into focus recently with the massive public concern about Ash dieback, but engaged on many other important tree disease issues), and many policy functions, including HR, IT, systems to run the grant and licensing functions.

    The other well-known part of FC is Forest Research, an executive agency of the Forestry Commission, which conducts crucial work to support forestry throughout the UK, to support Forest Services, to support Forest Enterprise, and the development of forestry policy.

    All of these parts are extremely important, and are threatened by the potential splitting up of the Forestry Commission, if a separate organisation is established to run the PFE, and if Forest Services is split off to go it alone or merge (or be submerged to be more accurate) with another different land management body or two.

    I agree with Woodland Trust — we should be worried. And this is a shame, considering that many of us have been campaigning to protect and save our forests, all of our forests, and for a properly resourced Forestry Commission to run the PFE and continue with the fantastic work it’s been doing supporting, promoting and advising on forestry. I’m not sure that the well over half a million people realise that the Forestry Commission they supported is under threat.

  16. Clive Coles says:

    I think this is a very valid concern, as the Forest Services/Forest research operations are vital if all our forests and woodlands are to be sustained for future generations to enjoy.
    This post from Hilary Allison acknowledges the multi-faceted challenge we face. it is not just a question of campaigning for Ancient Woodlands, vital that this may be. We also need to argue for the provision of services that manage and support all style of forest cultivation,as well as the environment, wildlife , tree-heatth, timber production and the public quest for better access.
    Within the private sector there have always been some landowners who have resisted public access. It’s their land and they want to run their estates on their own terms. They are well connected and have many opportunities to make their views known. They can of course apply for and do receive various grants to manage their woodlands. With public money comes public responsibilities. Many private woodlands are in a poor state of maintenance.
    Some of these landowners regard the PFE as being a competitor. The Forestry Commission are constituted to maintain a steady flow of timber to the market year on year. By contrast the private woodland owner likes to fell when prices are high so as to maximise profit. it suits them for prices to fluctuate.
    It seems the most consistant calls for the Forestry Commission to be split up comes from the private sector landowner ~ as happened in the recent House of Lords debate, they declare their interest, and then speak up for splitting the Forestry Commission into smaller fragments. A question possibly of “divide and rule”.
    I believe the Forestry Commission benefits from synergies by being just one properly funded public enterprise. The nature and remit of that enterprise will probably need to be changed if we are to achieve greater operational control, and more detachment from Government direction and funding that has been recommended by the Forestry panel.
    I don’t believe however that the case for fragmentation of the Forestry Commission has ever really been adequately challenged. I don’t see there are many benefits from having a fragmented forestry/woodland support structure, where parts of the current organisation are subsumed into a new environmentally led public agencies or trusts. The woodland focus could be lost.
    There are some critical decisions to be made.

    .

    • CC says:

      House of Lords debate 5th February ~

      Lord Cavendish of Furness: My Lords, like my noble friend, I declare an interest as a forestry owner. Does he agree that the present situation, under which the Forestry Commission is my competitor but also my regulator, is intolerable, and will the new arrangement reverse that situation?

      Lord De Mauley: That is certainly the intention.

  17. sue thorne says:

    Why oh why do we have to continue this madness, we must preserve our Ancient Woodlands and create more including wildlife corridors through our towns and cities, indeed cities and towns may be where we protect our Badger population for future generations until all the crazy culls and destruction of our cows due to TB, there must be an answer to this via a vacination program.
    If we allow this or any other Government to continue on this senseless path including shale gas extraction we will have no Planet left to worry about or to leave our children/grandchild

  18. Peter Kyte says:

    I think that without constant vigilance, a lot of our natural environment will be eroded or lost due to housing, transport, mineral or gas extraction or anything, the government of the day think will aid growth. All politicians like to be remembered as the party who gave the country the most “growth” regardless of the environmental consequences, because they and a proportion of the population only see life in short termism and material wealth.

  19. randall evans says:

    I believe it is important to allow the “development” of some ancient, and modern, woods. Provisos should be that a similar habitat is maintained nearby, perhaps by retaining part of the site and a new area of equivalent or greater size is planted within, say, a 20 mile radius. The view that all woodland must be maintained at any cost is a losing argument and hurts credibility. If the trust maintain the reputation of being fair and reasonable then more important “victories” can be won. Sorry about the word “victory”, I much prefer reasonable compromise but some interpret that as “losing”.
    Habitats evolve and preserving all the ancient ones is an unwinnable proposition. Use resources wisely, maintain credibility and obtain the results by co operation. Cheaper and achieves more.
    The trust needs to work positively with authorities to achieve the most positive outcomes at the least cost to supporters. With this approach the trust can be more effective on more cases.

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