Local action against the public sale of forests has galvanised strongly when centred on England’s large heritage forests (read more). The power of these campaigns, due to their large number of supporters and backing of celebrities, in my view makes any radicle change of ownership highly unlikely. I believe the actual frontline will be the myriad of small woodlands dotted across England that will be precious only to local people.
I was recently asked by one reader about their local wood. How could he find out more: was the woodland threatened by sale, and could he join a local action group?
The question of which woodlands may be sold can be found out by looking at Defra’s rather poor map that is offered as one of the downloads in the consultation document. You can access it directly by clicking on the map image.
The frontline, as I see it, are the woodlands in denoted in red. The only large commercial forest area (yellow) is Kielder Forest in Northumberland: I was surprised that areas of Thetford and the North York Moors escaped this categorisation. The heritage forests (blue) and multi-purpose forests (green) are both pretty safe in my view, as their high public benefit value, especially public access, will ensure that their disposal will be handled very carefully by Government. It is the red-highlighted small commercial woodlands that are the ones to watch.
You will need to zoom into the document to try to work out which woodland you are interested in. Unfortunately no background information is supplied by Defra that would be helpful to the public in supporting their response to these proposals in any detail. We should have been provided with a spreadsheet containing all the woodlands: their names, areas, grid reference, simple timber and land £ valuation, visitor numbers, public and permitted access rights, species content, any designation (e.g. SSSI, AONB etc.). Even more helpful and transparent would have been their disposal score (based on how they were rated based on provision of public benefits, nearness to urban centres, timber value etc.).
In answer to the question about finding a local action group, there do appear to be more campaign groups coming together to defend the smaller woodlands. It takes a passionate group of local people to make this happen, with the skills and time to inform local people, organise events, create press interest and to develop an online presence. In other words Big Society in action but perhaps not as the Government anticipated!