Whilst welcoming Government intentions to abandon plans for disposal of public forests, the campaign to protect and restore England’s ancient forests must go on, warns the Woodland Trust.
They welcome the opportunity for a more considered approach to the future of our much loved woodlands but their campaign continues. Whilst they welcome the removal of threats to public access, there is still an acute need for better protection of Ancient Woodland, our equivalent of the rainforests, and restoration of ancient woods planted with conifers.
Even if there are no sales of publicly owned forests, the worst of all worlds would be for there to be no change to the loopholes that have allowed 850 ancient woods to be threatened by built development over the past decade. Ministers have made strong commitments over the past few weeks to increase protection for ancient woods, and the Woodland Trust will be holding them to these commitments.
As I write, there is a proposal to water down protection for ancient woodland in the planning system. The Woodland Trust needs your help to defeat this proposal by 28th February.
We must not let public passion and support for our woods and forests die down and now that ownership is no longer an issue, we must not lose sight of the need to increase protection for ancient forests and restore those planted with conifers, a once in a lifetime opportunity for woodland conservation.
The campaign will continue and I urge everyone to continue to sign the petition and transfer their passion about who owns England’s public woods to ensuring that all of England?s woods survive in the future.
Fellow members will know that as the current caretaker of the Company of the Green Man I try to be impartial when it comes to discussions and issues. But on this occasion I think we all need to stand together to help protect our ancient woodland. I urge you to read on and then sign the petition to support the Woodland Trust in their campaign.
On the 27th January 2011 the Government started a consultation over the future of the forests in England owned by the Forestry Commission, including plans to sell many of them. The Woodland Trust have responded by launching their biggest ever campaign: Save England’s Ancient Forests.
Please support the woodland trust by signing their petition which can be found at:
Ancient woods must be treated as a special case
Ancient woods are the UK’s equivalent of the rainforest: unique, irreplaceable and our richest wildlife habitat. The proposals do not treat all ancient woods as a special case: only some are included in the proposed category of heritage woods.
Stronger protection is needed for ancient woods
In the last decade the Woodland Trust have fought to protect 850 cases of ancient woods threatened by development. This shows that much stronger protection is needed for these precious places before any sales can be considered.
Planted ancient woods must be restored
The Forestry Commission owns over 20,000 hectares of ancient woods that have been damaged by the planting of conifers. Their restoration to broadleaved woodland would be one of the most significant contributions to wildlife conservation in a generation. The Woodland Trust have lobbied passionately for their cause in the media. They have also persuaded government to halt their current back door sales until the consultation is complete. Replanting conifers will smother the life out of these fragile habitats so we need government to guarantee their urgent restoration.
Public access must be maintained
The passionate outcry about the future of public forests underlines how important access to woods and their beautiful surroundings is to millions of people each year. The Government’s proposals to include agreements to maintain existing levels of access to bind future owners are crucial to maintaining this public benefit and we must hold them to account on this.
Transfers to charities must be properly funded
The proposals suggest that some woods could be transferred to charities such as the Woodland Trust. They would welcome the chance to work with government to safeguard the future of planted ancient woods in particular, perhaps through management agreements, but they need substantial and sustained funding from government before they could take over its responsibilities. They are concerned that such funding may be limited in the current economic climate. Stronger protection is therefore also essential.
The Woodland Trust’s Save England’s ancient forests campaign calls for:
- Ancient woods to be treated as a special case in the Forestry Commission’s sell-off plans.
- Restoration of all the Forestry Commission’s damaged ancient woods (defaced by conifers) to their rightful place as jewels in the crown of our native woodland heritage.
- Closure of loopholes in protection for all ancient woods, to guarantee their public access and wildlife value, no matter who owns them.
Please speak up for our much loved woods by signing The Woodland Trust’s petition to government now:
I would love to hear any comments that our members and any other visitors to this blog might have on this issue. Please either add your comment directly to the blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am extremely grateful to COTGM member Rob Stephens for creating this fantastic fan art for The Company of the Green Man. I am proud to adopt this as our new logo. Watch this space for the official COTGM T-Shirt incorporating Rob’s design coming soon.