Woodland Trust calls for public forest estate body "before it's too late"

The Woodland Trust, together with other campaigning organisations, has called on the government to create a new public forest and woodland management organisation before the next election.

Beccy Speight - image:Woodland Trust
Beccy Speight - image:Woodland Trust

In an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, the trust calls on the government to include a draft Bill to establish such an organisation for England within its legislative programme for the year ahead.

In 2011, the Government signalled an intention to sell off a large part of the public forest estate, but backed down in the face of widespread opposition.

It then established the Independent Forestry Panel to advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England. Then in January 2013 it published its Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement, based the panel's recommendations.

This called for a new management body to hold the estate in trust for the nation - an aim reaffirmed by the government in January this year, though it has yet to introduce enabling legislation.

Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight said: "If Government is serious about safeguarding the future of the public forest estate, moving forward with legislation is crucial.

"A promise was made in 2013 which must now be fulfilled. Missing this opportunity could once again put the estate in jeopardy, given that we can not be certain of any new administration's future priorities."

The letter reads in full:

Dear Prime Minister,

As the Government prepares for the Queen's Speech and its final legislative programme in advance of the general election, it is time to fulfil a promise to the public for legislation to establish a new public forest management organisation for England.

The Independent Panel on Forestry, established in 2011 after the public outcry that forced the Government to rethink its plans to sell off the public forest estate, made the recommendation for a new body to secure its future. The Government has already publicly committed to it at the earliest opportunity. That time is now.

The publication of draft legislation will reassure the hundreds of thousands of people who made their views known so powerfully that England's public forests will be held in trust for the nation.

The Government must take this opportunity, before it is too late, to move beyond the controversies of the past and keep the promises it has made for our forests. A draft Bill, once passed, will enable the public forest estate to fully contribute to a bright new future for the environment, people and the economy.

Yours sincerely,

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive, Woodland Trust
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive, Confederation of Forest Industries
Jonathan Porritt, Co-founder, Our Forests
Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive, Ramblers
Hen Anderson, Co-founder, Save Our Woods
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Maddy Carroll, Campaigns Director, 38 Degrees
Members of the Forest Campaigns Network:
Save Sherwood Forest
Save Sandlings Forest
Friends of the Lake District
Friends of Thetford Forest
Save Cannock Chase
Friends of Chopwell Wood


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