The Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement published January 2013, sets out future policies for protecting, improving and expanding public and private woodland. This policy statement includes 36 commitments for the government to pursue in partnership with stakeholders, and responded to the recommendations provided by the Independent Panel on Forestry, which was set up after the Government was forced to U-turn on its proposal to sell off England’s public forest.
One year on from the publication of the Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement, the Forestry Commission reported on their progress towards achieving the aims of the statement and securing the future of our nations woodlands, at the National Forestry Forum held in January this year.
During this Forum, the future arrangements for the Governments Forestry Functions in England were confirmed. Forestry functions include advising on forestry policy, delivering government policy, regulating to enhance the resilience of the woodland resource, and corporate management. The Governments forestry functions will continue to be delivered by the Forestry Commission, with greater integration between the Forestry Commission and Defra on both policy and delivery. This integrated service aims to address forestry issues across the government network, and support forest service staff in their work to protect, improve and expand England’s woodland.
Progress towards the development of an operationally-independent Public Forest Estate (PFE) management body, a commitment of the Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement, was also discussed. This management body will be completely separate from Forestry Commission England and will meet with the Independent Panel on Forestry’s requirements in order to manage the nation’s forest resources effectively. Legislation regarding this organisation is still being drafted and development of the new body has so far incorporated stakeholder consultations and subsequent proposal reviews. Ten core principals underpinning the new PFE body are:
- To conserve and enhance the estate for the benefit of people, nature and the economy.
- To be publicly-owned and operationally independent of Government.
- To be underpinned by statute and have a Charter.
- To be managed by experts and have access to the best advice.
- To have commercial freedoms but will be required to protect the estate.
- To be able to buy and sell land, but any land sales must be for the benefit of the estate.
- To be a pioneer in natural capital accounting and payment for ecosystem services.
- To work closely with local communities, estate users and businesses. It will have consultation at its heart.
- To be an exemplar of sustainable forest management.
- To build on the strengths of Forest Enterprise England.
However, concerns regarding the lack of legislation on the future of the public forest estate remain. Hilary Allison, Woodland Trust Policy Director reports how the lack of a Forestry Bill by Defra to protect the public forests “overshadows any progress the Government has made on its forestry policy for England over the past year”. There are also concerns regarding the future protection of ancient woodlands, as the Forestry Minister Dan Rogerson did not confirm at the National Forestry Forum, whether ancient woodlands will be exempt from biodiversity offsetting. The ambiguous protection regarding ancient woodlands is particularly concerning as current cover and rate of loss is inadequately reported and largely unknown.
The woodland trust is currently campaigning on the need for legislation of the PFE and has also identified eight low or no cost ways that the protection for ancient woodland can be increased by the government. For more information on the campaign please visit:
For more information please visit:
The Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement
A Strategy for Open Habitat Policy Delivery on the Public Forest Estate (86)