The minutes of the latest Our Forests ginger group meeting are now available. Key discussion points were as follows:
Current activities by the Independent Panel on Forestry
The Independent Panel on Forestry’s interim report is due out towards the end of November /early December. In January next year, there will be a major ‘Stakeholders Event’, and then some ‘Select Committee Hearings’ in January and February. Their intention is still to have the final report done by April.
Freedom of Information requests
We reviewed the responses from both Defra and the Forestry Commission to our Freedom of Information requests regarding the meetings earlier in the year between Defra and the Forestry Commission with representatives of various national NGOs. The response from the Forestry Commission was considered to be fairly useful. Defra’s response was wholly inadequate.
- We will pursue a formal complaint regarding Defra’s response as a manifest abuse of both the broad principles and the specific guidelines under the Freedom of Information Act. We will seek legal advice as to how best to set about this.
- We will press specifically for the minutes of the meetings with the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust to be made public under the Freedom of Information Act – given how important it is to ensure that those organisations (as members of the Independent Panel) are held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.
Our Forests vision
We agreed to press on with the first draft of the Vision paper with a view to having this completed as soon as possible. We will then work together to secure agreement on a final draft by the end of November.
- Above all, we want to make sure that our Vision provides a compelling and accessible case for the maintenance and expansion of the Public Forest estate – seen through the three lenses of People (P), the Forests and woodlands themselves (F) and Economics (E) – PFE!
- Getting the Vision signed-off is one thing; getting it out there, to have as much impact on the work of the Independent Panel as possible is another! We agreed that we would develop a full-on distribution and outreach strategy for our Vision.
Why are we doing all this?
Hen was very keen that we should each provide a rather more interesting and personal account of why we are all involved in Our Forests! We haven’t really brought that to life yet, but some people will definitely want to know more why we’re doing all this as now and when the Vision starts to get out there. Hen will make sure we each produce a personal statement of some kind over the next few weeks.