Launched at the Royal Welsh Show, the Welsh Assembly’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee's Branching out: a new ambition for woodland policies calls for:
- the Welsh Government to commit to ensuring a minimum of 20% tree cover in Wales’ towns and cities by 2030;
- extended and better-managed access to public woodlands, especially for marginalised groups;
- greater clarity on how to use trees as a nature-based solution to flooding;
- a National Forest Company, to help regenerate the south Wales valleys, to be considered;
- ambitious targets to enable Wales to become increasingly self-sufficient in timber.
Committee chair Mike Hedges AM said: "We are calling on the Welsh Government to address, as a matter of urgency, the regulatory, financial, bureaucratic and cultural barriers to woodland creation, with commercial forests and trees in urban areas being a particular priority."
Official estimates put Wales’ current average urban tree cover at 17%, though with wide variation.
Welcoming the report, forestry trade body Confor’s Wales manager Martin Bishop said: "This report is a shot in the arm for the industry. It recognises Wales is missing an enormous range of economic, environmental and community benefits delivered by not planting enough trees, and sets out a clear plan of action to put things right."
Sawmiller Josh Sambrook-Jones of Confor member Clifford Jones Timber Group said: "There is a huge market for our timber and every sawmill in Wales could double or treble production if the timber was there to feed the mills."
Just 100 hectares of new woodland was planted in Wales in 2016, compared to an official target of 2,000 hectares a year.