The National Forest Company's (NFC's) Annual Report, published last week, revealed that over 23,200 people were involved with the forest during the year through various events. It also showed that 41,000 children took part in environmental education sessions.
This exceeded the target for participation while the those for forest quality, climate change, sustainable economic development and leadership were also achieved.
But the Defra-set goal of 150ha of new forest creation was missed by 19ha, which the NFC blamed on the challenging economic environment and a dearth in the availability of suitable land. It did manage to create 58ha of conservation sites, however, against a target of just 50ha.
Contributing to forest creation were 11 sites covering over 50ha, delivered during this the first year of operation of the new Changing Landscapes grant scheme. Woodland cover over the whole of the forest's 200 square miles has now reached 18%, three times the original figure of 6%, and well on the way to achieving the eventual target of about one-third.
The headline achievements for the year include:
- The re-establishment of the Woodland Owners' Club, as a driver for good woodland management, including dealing with pests and diseases.
- The completion of a comprehensive bird survey, applying national surveying methods.
- The installation of further visitor signage and furniture in the East and West Midlands. (The tourism economy was confirmed as being worth more than £260m a year).
- The first National Forest Walking Festival was held, supported by the NFC.
A major review of the development of the forest took place during the year, at the mid-point in the 2004-2014 National Forest strategy.
NFC chairman Dinah Nichols said: "This has been a year in which affection for, and pride in, the National Forest was restated clearly and with passion by friends and partners. Over 1,000 residents contributed to our consultation on the next five years and their deep appreciation of the quality of life provided by the National Forest is an immense encouragement to us all."
The National Forest Company Annual Report 2008/9 is available to download at www.nationalforest.org.
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