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Independent Panel on Forestry report published

IPF final report July 2012
IPF final report July 2012

Download the full IPF final report July 2012

The much heralded report by the Independent Panel on Forestry on the future of forestry in England was released this morning. It is anticipated that the Government will take until January 2013 to consider the Panel’s recommendations and that the suspension on sales of public forests will be extended until it publishes its response. Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, will be issuing a written statement later this morning.

Here’s a quick summary of the central messages:

A woodland culture for the 21st century

  • Urge society as a whole to value woodlands for the full range of benefits they bring. We call on Government to pioneer a new approach to valuing and rewarding the management, improvement and expansion of the woodland ecosystems for all the benefits they provide to people, nature and the green economy.
  • Government and other woodland owners to give as many people as possible ready access to trees and woodlands for health and well-being benefits – this means planting more trees and woodlands closer to people and incentivising more access to existing woodlands.
  • Ensure that land-use creates a coherent and resilient ecological network at a landscape scale, by integrating policy and delivery mechanisms for woods, trees and forests in line with the principles in the  “Making Space for Nature” report, published by the Lawton Review.
  • Urge Government, woodland owners and businesses to seize the opportunity provided by woodlands to grow our green economy, by strengthening the supply chain, and promoting the use of wood more widely across our society and economy. These and other actions should be set out in a Wood Industry Action Plan

Making the vision a reality – the role of our national forestry organisations

  • Propose that the public forest estate should remain in public ownership, and be defined in statute as land held in trust for the nation. A Charter should be created for the English public forest estate, to be renewed every ten years. The Charter should specify the public benefit mission and statutory duties, and should be delivered through a group of Guardians, or Trustees, who will be accountable to Parliament.  The Guardians will oversee the new public forest management organisation evolved from Forest Enterprise England urge Government to ensure that the new organisational landscape makes specific provision  for international and cross-border arrangements, working closely with the devolved Parliaments on sustainable multi-benefit forestry implementation, research and in the international arena.

In the Introduction to the report the chair of the panel Bishop James Jones wrote some of the most eloquent words about our forests and woods that I have read in a long while:

Our forests and woods are nature’s playground for the adventurous, museum for the curious, hospital for the stressed, cathedral for the spiritual, and a livelihood for the entrepreneur. They are a microcosm of the cycle of life in which each and every part is dependent on the other; forests and woods are the benefactor of all, purifying the air that we breathe and distilling the water of life. In short, trees are for life.

Bishop James Jones, Chair, Independent Panel on Forestry. July 4th 2012

The ginger group Our Forests will be releasing a statement later today.

Gabriel Hemery

Other resources related to the IPF Report

Our Forests online poster to share

July 2, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests online poster (114kb compressed)

Our Forests has created a poster to be shared online to promote grassroot’s demands to Government concerning the future of England’s forests. With the announcement from the Independent Panel on Forestry just 36 hours away, here’s a chance to remind everyone why the issue is so important.

Right click and select Save As to download the poster image and feel free to Share via social media (links below).

Our Forests online poster (114kb compressed)

Our Forests online poster (114kb compressed)

Our Forests online poster (418kb low quality)

Our Forests online poster (418kb low quality)

Our Forests online poster (4.39mb high quality)

Our Forests online poster (4.39mb high quality)

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests campaign posters

June 29, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

For everyone for ever - download poster

Our Forests has produced a series of posters free for anyone to use in publicising the issues critical in securing the people’s vision for the future of woods and forests in England.

The posters reiterate and emphasize our six simple demands for Government:

  1. Our woods & forests protected forever!
  2. National support for a national resource
  3. No sales until public woods safe
  4. Stop chopping the Forestry Commission
  5. Public Forest Estate – Double it!
  6. Good management for all woods

Read more about Our Forests

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests Vision – have your say

May 18, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests

The Independent Panel on Forestry is due to release their final report on July 4th.  Although much anticipated by all those with an interest in the future of England’s trees and forests, it is likely that Government will issue quickly a holding statement and hold back on a fully-considered response for many months afterwards.

Meanwhile, the Vision presented by Our Forests for the future of England’s trees and forests has been well-received right across the sector and by the public at large. The Ginger Group is now keen to hear the views of the public, particularly from the half a million people that objected so strongly to the Government’s original proposals to sell off England’s public forests, in partnership with 38 Degrees.

Recently, 38 Degrees shared a post on their blog about Our Forests, written by ginger group member Jonathon Porritt. He explained why Our Forests are hoping 38 Degrees members would share their views on the Vision. You can read his blog post here.

Our Forests have come up with some questions they’d like to ask 38 Degrees members. You can answer the questions whether or not you’ve read the report. But if you’d like to read it to see more about the vision, you can download a copy here.

The survey won’t take long to fill in, and the researchers looking at the answers won’t see your name and personal details – just the answers that you give.

Take part in the survey

Gabriel Hemery

England’s forests in 2050 – looking back from the future

January 12, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests

Barrow Wake panorama

Where we could be – with vision, national effort and political support

England’s woods and forests are embraced as vital to the health, wealth and well-being of the Nation and its people – recognised as having a key role in curbing climate change and enabling human society and wildlife to contend with its impacts. The more frequent and violent cycles of drought and downpour predicted by climate scientists at the end of the last century are now a reality. Our woods and forests are classed as a national network of strategic natural defences.

Following the country-wide outcry against its plans to dispose of England’s public woods and forests, the Coalition Government of 2011 changed tack, turning public brick-bats to bouquets by granting the Public Forest Estate (PFE) full and lasting protection. It received international acclaim following the UN International Year of the Forest with a commitment to restore England’s tree-cover over the next 50 years back to what it was at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 – around 15% of our total land area.

This effort proved to be all the more urgently needed following the near decimation of our native oaks by a series of invasive diseases, benefiting from England’s warmer, wetter climate. Spending on research into pests and diseases was substantially increased, with strong public support.[1]

Unable to refute the hard evidence of the economic, environmental and social benefits delivered by well-managed woodland, the Treasury approved a long-term budget line for this visionary initiative – unleashing a collective effort from local communities, councils, businesses, private landowners, conservation groups and public bodies across the country. By 2050, over half a million hectares of new planting has been achieved – England’s 21st Century ‘Domesday Forest’ is on-target. As well as helping the country withstand and adapt to the impacts of accelerating climate change, new woods and forests are making communities across England better places to live, pulling in investment and creating thousands of new jobs.

An equal effort has been directed at bringing long-neglected woodland into positive management. Tens of thousands of privately-owned and community-run woods hum with activity – delivering valuable harvests of timber and fuel for heating homes in addition to providing vital ‘social services’ of carbon-storage, flood protection and a thriving network of wildlife habitats.

By 2050, England’s precious heathland habitats have been cleared of inappropriate plantations and returned to their former purple glory. Our remnant ancient woodlands long overdue protection as ‘the jewels in our woodland crown’, form the cornerstones of the Domesday Forest – all those damaged by coniferisation are now under restoration.

Forty years back, foresters and those seeking to make a living from woodland were an endangered species. In 2012, England’s woods and forests supported just over 100,000 jobs [2]; in 2050, there are double that number, requiring people with a wider range of skills to maximise the many and diverse benefits that well-managed woods provide. Jobs for young people – a key concern in 2012 – have been boosted by the much sought-after National Forestry Apprenticeship Scheme.

As thousands of long-neglected, shaded-out woods have been brought back into active management, so the numbers and variety of woodland wildlife have burgeoned. With sunlight once again reaching the under-storey, dormant seed-banks have sprung to life – bluebells and other woodland plants carpet the forest floor. The decline of woodland birds has been reversed – the nightingale’s liquid song is no longer confined to poet’s verses.

For all the efforts by individuals, communities, private woodland owners and commercial foresters, this vision could not have been realised without the leadership and strategic oversight of Forests for England – the publicly accountable successor to the Forestry Commission. Forests for England (FfE) is tasked with sustaining the character and diversity of England’s existing and future woodland, while ensuring the long-term commercial viability of our woods and forests. Its advisory and research role is underpinned by decades of practical experience on what is still known as the Public Forest Estate (PFE).

To those familiar with the jargon, what FfE does is ‘integrated land use’. To the rest of us, that means making sure our woods and forests offer they best they can, hectare for hectare, for the good of all – producing valuable timber and fuel, providing access and recreation for people, protecting homes and businesses from flooding, and helping our wildlife to hold on during this period of rapid change through a network of linked habitats.

In 2011, politicians questioned whether the country could afford to care for our woods and forests. In 2050, woods and forests are central drivers of a booming low-carbon economy. Vibrant markets exist for timber, woodfuel and carbon-capture. No urban development is conceivable or permitted without an equivalent investment in green infrastructure – trees, woods and forests are as integral to our urban quality of life as energy, water and sewerage systems.

Something else. Beyond their obvious strategic and economic value, the effort to renew England’s woods and forests has drawn people together, creating a sense of community, place, well-being, and that most elusive of cultural concepts, national identity – which like our woods and forests, seemed under threat in 2011.

Reproduced from Our Forests – a vision for England’s woods and forests


1 UK government launches tree biosecurity plan

2 Figures for 2008 taken from the Annual Business Inquiry 2009 and Office for National Statistics regional gVA December 2009 published by the Office of National Statistics.

A vision for England’s woods and forests

Our Forests vision

Our Forests the ‘ginger group’ of leading environmentalists, professional foresters and grassroots campaigners set-up in the wake of the Government’s plans to ‘dispose’ of all the 1,500 woods that make up the Public Forest Estate, is publishing its vision for a future where all England’s woods and forests are recognised collectively as a vital strategic economic and social resource.

A Vision for England’s woods & forests:

 –       A new ‘Domesday Forest’ of more than 1 billion trees

 –       All our  public woods  distanced from the control of ‘Big Government’, and given full and lasting protection for ‘Big Society’

 –       A new, independent, publicly accountable body, ‘Forests for England’, with the resources and authority to lead on implementing this vision

Our Forests
vision includes the ambitious but achievable proposal for creating a new ‘Domesday Forest’: an overall area of woodland on a scale unseen since the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 – when 15% of England’s land area was wooded, compared to under 10% currently. This would mean planting 1 billion trees across over half a million hectares by 2050 – equivalent to creating:

  • 10 ‘new’ Forests of Dean
  • a dozen additional Thetford Forests, and
  • replicating the community woods of the Mersey Forest around a further 50 urban fringes.

“Creating a new Domesday Forest is an ambitious, but wholly achievable target, and one which meets the aspirations of the over half million people who came out across the country against the disposal plans. Getting all our woods working, so that they provide the wealth of renewable resources and rich variety of wildlife they are capable of supporting, is vital. Our vision is about creating real jobs, boosting rural economies, and improving the environment and well-being for communities across England.

Where ministers saw assets for stripping, we see a national strategic resource – critical for helping the country curb and adapt to climate change and even more importantly, for demonstrating the scale of sustained effort required. The benefits produced from delivering our vision are substantially greater than the costs. As it stands, the Public Forest Estate delivers goods and services worth £2 billion annually at a cost to each individual taxpayer of just 30p a year.”

Gabriel Hemery

Alongside planting ‘more trees’, Our Forests vision prioritises bringing the 60% of private woodlands that are currently neglected into active management – such that they provide maximum benefits to people, the economy and wildlife.

Robust leadership, long-term commitment and secure resourcing are required to deliver this vision. Our Forests believes the Forestry Commission offers the foundation and skill-base for such a new, more independent body; freed from short-term political meddling and more accountable to the public.

Our Forests vision is being launched at a critical time:

  • The Independent Panel on Forestry is holding the first ‘hearing’ (13/1/12) following the launch of its Interim Progress Report and is beginning to shape more concrete recommendations to put to ministers in the spring.
  • Yet even as those recommendations are being drafted, the Forestry Commission is being forced to make 25% cuts – staff are being laid off; including key posts managing our public woods and forests.
  • Despite the halting of the Government’s wholesale disposal proposal, our public woods are not fully protected from disposal, and some are coming under the hammer.

To accompany its vision, Our Forests is putting 3 key demands to the Government:

  1. No sales of any public woods and forests until full and lasting protection is given to the Public Forest Estate overall.
  2. Stop the chopping of the Forestry Commission by stealth – the Independent Panel’s recommendations (due in spring 2012) will be academic if insufficient resources of staff and funds remain to put them into practice.
  3. Repeal the law that states our public woods and forests are ‘owned’ by the Secretary of State (currently, Caroline Spelman who led the disposal proposal).

“Ministers said their motivation behind their ill-conceived disposal proposal was to reduce the influence of ‘Big Government’ and to increase the involvement and influence of ‘Big Society’.  Well, that’s what our vision proposes – get our public woods and forests out of the hands of distant, detached ministers only interested in short-term asset-stripping and protect them for everyone, for ever.

Contrary to ministers’ outdated views, many people and communities value the Forestry Commission as part of their local ‘Big Society’, and are willing as taxpayers to support it in looking after our woods and forests.”

Rich Daniels, Our Forests

Over the next few weeks and months, 38 Degrees will be sharing the vision paper from Our Forests among its members, to ask their views about the vision for the future of England’s woods and forests. As Our Forests’ ideas develop in the future, we’ll be drawing on the input from 38 Degrees members and their perspectives will help inform our proposal for the future of England’s woods and forests.

Our Forests vision

Our Forests vision for the future of England's woods and forests

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