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Tree Charter: a voice for trees and people

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Charter for Trees, Woods and People

Our life on Earth is entwined with trees, even if we’re not always aware of their importance. It often takes a special moment for us remember the significance of something we can so easily take for granted. The Year 2017 is one such moment for trees and forests in the UK, this being the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest.

In 1217, all of the rules contained in the 1215 version of Magna Carta which related to forests were defined in a separate dedicated charter called the Charter of the Forest.

charter-of-the-forest-1217

The National Archives provide a simplified transcript:

Edward by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Guyan, to all to whom these presents shall come, sends greeting: we have seen the charter of the Lord Henry our father, sometime King of England, concerning the Forest in these words. Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Guyan and Earl of Anjou, to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, justicers, foresters, sheriffs, provosts, officers, and to all his bailiffs, and faithful subjects which shall see this present charter, greeting. For the honour of Almighty God, and for the salvation of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, to the advancement of Holy Church, and amendment of our realm, we have, of our mere and free will have given and granted, to all archbishops, bishops, earls, barons and to all of this our realm, these liberties, following, to be kept in our kingdom of England forever.

(1) First, we order that all lands which became forest under King Henry II, our grandfather, shall be examined by good and lawful men; and if these investigations find that Henry II created forest on land that did not rightfully belong to the king, this land shall no longer be considered forest.

(9) And if the swine of any freeman sleeps one night within our forest, he should not lose any of his property as punishment.

(10) Henceforth, no man shall lose his life or suffer the amputation of any of his limbs for killing our deer. If any man is convicted of killing our deer, he shall pay a grievous fine, but if he is poor and has nothing to lose, he shall be imprisoned for a year and a day. After the year and a day expired, if he can find people to vouch for him, he shall be released; if not, he shall be banished from the realm of England.

More than 50 organisations representing a wide range of interests—led by Woodland Trust—are standing together during 2017 to call for a new charter which is called the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

Through collecting stories about what trees and woods mean to people, the movement is building a picture of their value to everyone in the UK.  These stories will be used to create a set of guiding principles, around which the Charter will be written. The final Charter for Trees, Woods and People will influence policy and practice and celebrate the role that trees and woods play in our lives.

Charter for Trees, Woods and People

Charter for Trees, Woods and People

The new Charter for Trees, Woods and People will launch on November 6th 2017, the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest. Before this there will more and more activities getting underway with opportunities for everyone to get involved.

Get involved:

Environmental change: awareness, actions, aspirations

September 1, 2015

Gabriel Hemery

Environmental change is impacting Britain’s trees and forests with increasing frequency and severity, caused by human influences and/or natural ecological processes.

Somerset owner William Theed replanted with different conifer species when Japanese larch in his woodland was the first in the UK attacked by Phytophthora ramorum. Photo Gabriel Hemery.

An important national survey about environmental change is seeking to explore awareness, actions and aspirations among all those who care for trees. It is open until 15th September and I encourage all those with a deep interest or professional connection with trees and forestry to take part.

If you can spare about 20 minutes you will be guided through a set of questions tailored to your role (namely woodland owner, professional forester or arboriculturist, tree nursery owner etc.). These cover the following broad themes:

  • What do you think about environmental change?
  • Have you been affected by environmental change?
  • What are you doing about making our trees and forests more resilient to environmental change?

Survey co-ordinators the Sylva Foundation report that over 1000 responses have been received to date (see Twitter), which is impressive, but more responses will mean more powerful science and better informed policies. This is an opportunity for many new voices to be heard on a very important subject.

Please take the survey


More about the British Woodlands Survey 2015

The national survey is aiming is to help understand progress in awareness and actions in adapting to environmental change among woodland owners and managers (including agents), tree nursery businesses, and forestry professionals.

The information gathered will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests. The results will inform the government’s National Adaptation Programme.

The British Woodlands Survey 2015 on Resilience is supported by a very wide number of organisations, with funding provided by the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust. It is hosted and co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation.

The survey is live from July 31st to September 15th 2015.

Take the survey: www.sylva.org.uk/bws

Crowdsourcing questions for global project

July 16, 2014

Gabriel Hemery

Gabriel Hemery - one question for T20Q

Gabriel Hemery – one of my questions submitted to T20Q – have you submitted yours?

I am currently working on a global crowdsourcing project T20Q, which stands for Top 20 Questions for Forestry and Landscapes. T20Q encourages the forestry community to pose what they consider to be the key questions that should guide research and policy.

If you work in forestry, or have an interest as a business professional, student or retired individual, the project team are keen to hear from you. So far over 1000 questions have been received from more than 70 countries. Why not have your say? Visit the T20Q website.

I was interviewed recently by journalist Julie Mollins. Read the interview on the Global Landscapes Forum


T20Q is a project run by multiple partners. The website is hosted by the Sylva Foundation at: http://forestryevidence.com/t20q/

Trees are in our blood

July 4, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests member Jonathon Porritt, explains why he thinks it is that we love our forests and trees so much we are willing to fight to protect them. Watch the film.

Our Forests responds to IPF report

July 4, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests has issued a short response to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report issued earlier today.

Robin Maynard, coordinator, Our Forests said,

“The Panel’s report offers reassurance on many, but not all, of the concerns of Our Forests and the many grassroots campaigners and forest community groups who stood up for their patch of our public woods and forests – forcing the Government to halt its disposal plans.
It is particularly welcome to see our number one demand endorsed by the Panel – namely, full and lasting protection for our public woods and forests – in their proposal that the Public Forest Estate be held in trust for the nation under a new public ‘Charter’. Yet despite making several references and citing strong evidence as to the tremendous ‘value for money’ of the Public Forest Estate in delivering public goods and services, some worrying language has slipped in – bearing the hallmark of the free-market ideologues in the Cabinet Office and Treasury.”

The response reviews in outline how the recommendations of the panel may meet the six demands put to Government by Our Forests.

Our Forests view on independent panel on forestry reportRead the statement from Our Forests

Independent Panel on Forestry report published

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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

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