Turning the forestry regulation tanker: one year on

When the Forestry Regulation Task Force‘s final report ‘Challenging Assumptions, Changing Perceptions’ was published DEFRA made a commitment to report back about how it is delivering on the recommendations the Task Force made, one year on. 

Gordon Pfetscher, our UK Operations Manager, was invited to be a member of the independent Task Force (FRTF) when it was set up in 2011. It’s work done, the FRTF is now disbanded. We asked Gordon for his view on DEFRA’s update:

Gordon is the Woodland Trust's UK Operations Manager

Gordon is the Woodland Trust’s UK Operations Manager

“This ‘One Year Update’ is a positive report as clearly one would hope it would be. A year is not long in forestry so many of the improvements are still in the early stages and more is promised but at least they’ve got underway.

What I’m less certain of is the distinction between those projects which have got off the ground as a direct result of the FRTF’s recommendations and which would have or should have happened anyway. The recommendations of the FRTF are not rocket-science but based on common sense and pragmatism – qualities which British foresters are usually not lacking. This leads me to wonder whether a report such as this couldn’t have been produced by DEFRA anyway, even in the absence of the FRTF recommendations.

I genuinely believe it would be a simple measure to help the Forestry Commission to publish similar summaries of positive developments in future for the sector, not because a future task group might require similar but completely unprompted, just because it makes good sense to do so. Critically reviewing ones customer service, which is all this is, should be part of routine good business practice and what the tree loving public and private forestry sector should expect of our forestry department as a minimum.”

DEFRA’s update report identifies where progress has been made against the Taskforce’s recommendations, including the following highlights:

  • More action on tree health: increased threats have been met with increased action. The Forestry Commission has been working with DEFRA and FERA to deliver the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan. A Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Task Force was convened to review our strategic approach to plant health, it published its final report on 20 May. On the same day the Secretary of State announced action being taken to reduce the risk of importing sweet chestnut trees carrying sweet chestnut blight.
  • DEFRA has commissioned £2M of research into tree diseases in addition to the extra 20% spending on tree health at Forest Research. The Forestry Commission and DEFRA are partners in the Living with Environmental Change Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative, which is providing up to a further £7M for research.
  • In April 2013 DEFRA launched a consultation on legislative changes to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority operations, this includes a proposal that removes forestry-only activities from the scope of licensing.
  • A new Forest Industry Safety Accord (FISA) has been created by significant businesses from across the UK forestry sector with a commitment to improve the sector’s health and safety performance, which currently has one of the highest fatal injury incidence of any of the traditional employment sectors in the UK. An Action Plan has been developed to address key safety priorities.  

Gordon Pfetscher, Woodland Trust UK Operations Manager and former member of the Forestry Regulations Task Force

About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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2 Responses to Turning the forestry regulation tanker: one year on

  1. Rod Leslie says:

    But what about getting more woodland into management ? Turning the way FC and the other bodies involved from barriers to promoters of woodland and the values of woodland ? Defra’s response has been to try and ‘lose’ forestry within Natural England and to focus almost solely on budget cuts – is there any recognition of the huge business, carbon & biodiversity benefits of more & better woodland management ? Let me know if you’ve spotted any, Gordon !

  2. Why do we need to import trees in the first place? Surely we’re capable of growing our own?

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