A coalition of conservation, wildlife and forestry organisations have written a letter calling on the government to keep it's promise over the future of forests in Cornwall.
The groups are calling on the Government to ensure that a draft Bill to establish a new public forest management organisation for England is prioritised within the Government’s proposed legislative programme for the year ahead.
In 2011 the Government signalled an intention to sell off a significant proportion of the Public Forest Estate (PFE) and, in response, many politicians, community groups, and forestry stakeholders campaigned for the PFE to stay in public ownership.
In direct response, Government halted the sale and established the Independent Forestry Panel to advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England.
In January 2013, the Government published its Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement, which took on board the majority of the panel’s recommendations. The centrepiece was a key promise that the PFE in England would remain in public ownership, led by a strengthened new management body, established in statute, to hold the Estate in trust for the nation.
It said: “Establishing via legislation a new, operationally-independent Public Forest Estate management body to hold the Estate in trust for the nation.”
The Government reaffirmed its ambition in January 2014 stating: “The Government remains committed to publishing draft legislation as soon as possible and to submitting this to full Pre-Legislative Scrutiny”.
The open letter to the Government was signed by:
- 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
Woodland Trust chief executive Beccy Speight said: “Trees and woods are not a luxury, they are essential for our quality of life. The public forest estate provides a variety of cost-effective benefits for society, is vital in ensuring people’s physical and mental health and well-being, and provides much needed wildlife habitat with 22 per cent of England’s irreplaceable ancient woodland lying within the estate.
“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 – there is no need for further delay.
"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 hundreds of thousands of people who have made their views on the public forest estate so powerfully known since 2011 deserve reassurance that England’s public forests will be held in trust for the nation.”