UK: Charities say the fight is not yet over for England's woods

22.02.11

Last week's reversal of the decision to sell off England's public forests was a victory of people power and a demonstration of the strength of collectivism. But some of the country's most important charities say the fight is far from over.

The Woodland Trust's Chief Executive, Sue Holden, said: "We welcome the opportunity for a more considered approach to the future of our much loved woodlands but our campaign continues."

light shining through trees in british woodlandThe Woodland Trust's main concerns focus on poor planning decisions that have allowed "850 ancient woods to be threatened by built development over the past decade". Among these was the decision earlier this year to grant planning for oil exploration on a site of ancient woodland in the South Downs.

Holden continues: "Whilst we welcome the removal of threats to public access, there is still an acute need for better protection of ancient woodland, our equivalent of the rainforests, and restoration of ancient woods planted with conifers."

Another very powerful membership charity, the RSPB, also has strong views on the matter. Mark Avery, RSPB Director of Conservation, feels the government must not abandon all hope of reform just because of the U turn on the sell-off. He said: “If they choose to drop plans for a sell off then that is fine by us, but they cannot now walk away from this mess and allow the status quo to continue. The Government has now scrapped its consultation - so how can we now have our say on the future of our publicly owned land?"

The rather odd status quo Avery is talking about is one that must change. He continues: “The (Forestry) Commission’s role as a commercial forester and as a guardian of wildlife is an odd mixture and it cannot last. We welcome the setting up of an expert panel, and the RSPB would be keen to play a part in its work.┬áThe panel will need to examine the role of the Forestry Commission to decide whether its current remit is well-suited to the delivery of public access and a richer wildlife in our publicly owned forests, heaths and grasslands.

“One of the options, which has growing momentum with conservationists and foresters, that the panel should consider is the creation of a Forest and Wildlife Service whose remit would include providing a much better future for our forests and the wildlife that depends on them.”

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