In the Members’ Dining Room in the House of Commons, the Woodland Trust launched a call for a Charter for trees, woods and people. We also set out some of the ideas we believe political parties should be looking to incorporate into their manifestos as the General Election approaches.
Tuesday’s event was well attended by a wide range of people from Parliament, Whitehall, grant-giving bodies, business, think tanks and local government – to name but a few of the groups represented.
Everyone’s lives are touched by trees, woods and forests in some shape or form with their benefits being passed down the generations. Our era is a turbulent time for them. Over 100 ancient woodland sites have been lost to development in the last ten years. The increasingly fragmented resource that remains is vulnerable to further development, pests, diseases and the impact of climate change. Meanwhile, as we saw last week, planting rates remain pitifully low.
This generation – thanks to the growth of natural capital accounting and ever more sophisticated research work around ecosystem services – knows far more about the range and importance of the benefits trees provide. Because of the failings of our era – despite our unprecedented knowledge – there is a special responsibility on this generation to secure them for the future.
Our call for a new Charter has two underpinning beliefs: firstly, that all our lives are enhanced by woods and trees and everyone is entitled to the benefits they deliver.
Secondly, securing the future of the UK’s woodland requires a combination of protecting the irreplaceable, restoring the damaged and adding new and diverse woods to replenish our depleted landscapes – rural and urban.
From these beliefs flow a series of actions which we believe are not only the right thing to do but are also policies that would grace any parties manifesto. You can read the report we launched – ‘Life’s better with trees’ – here.
Trees and woods speak to all the main political traditions in this country and we were very heartened by the speeches at the event from Charles Walker MP (our host), Barry Gardiner MP and Roger Williams MP. We will also be taking this theme on into party conference season to deepen the discussion.
Over the coming months we will be developing that case for a Charter. We will also be making clear in the run up to the election that woods and trees can help tackle some of the great policy challenges of our age. Securing the recovery will be a central theme of the election campaign and the message needs to sound out that a recovery for people and the recovery of woods and trees are completely intertwined: the resilience of nature and the resilience of our society.
James Cooper, Head of Government Affairs