Sunday, 23 January 2011

Save England's Forests


As explained here:

"We believe the Government’s decision to pursue legislation to allow the disposal of all England’s public forest estate is wrong.

Three clauses in the Public Bodies Bill 2010-11, currently being debated in Parliament, will authorise the Government to sell the whole of our public forest estate to commercial interests on the open market. Without asking our permission Government has already allowed the sale of 15% of our public woodlands. Similar plans have been rejected by the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

We, who love, use and share the English forests believe that such a sale would be misjudged and shortsighted.

Only eighteen percent of English woodland remains under state protection for the benefit of the public. It is our national heritage. We are an island nation yet more people escape to the forest than to the seaside. Our forests nurture countless species of native plants and wildlife. We have relied on them since time immemorial yet we are only a heartbeat in their history.

The intention of the Bill is to scale back government agencies to meet the financial constraints of our time. The Forestry Commission, created in 1919, is one such agency. We appreciate the need for reform but the irreversible sale of our public forest estate is the most destructive of all possible options. Indeed a 2009 public consultation into the long-term role of the Forestry Commission Public Forest Estate found overwhelmingly that the public estate should expand, rather than disappear.

We who know the value of the forests fear that over time, the public’s access to them will be limited and their protection, eroded. Indeed the recently privatised Rigg Wood now has no visitor services and a bolted gate.

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Jim Paice, has offered only vague assurances, admitting: “It would be a brave politician who guaranteed anything.”

We, the undersigned, believe it unconscionable, that future generations will no longer enjoy the guarantee of a public forest estate.

Government should remove the three ill-conceived clauses from the Public Bodies Bill, and suspend any significant sales, until the public has been fully consulted.

We expect our leaders to engage in real dialogue with communities throughout the country to create a sustainable future for our public woods & forests."

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