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As noted in our July Ebrief, the government is currently consulting on a new England Tree Strategy focused on achieving a step change in woodland creation and improved management.

Subject to consultation, the new strategy will set out policies to expand tree cover, support woodland management and increase public engagement with trees and woodlands. Not least it will aim to ensure the government’s tree planting commitment – to increase tree planting to 30,000 hectares per year across the UK by 2025 – is delivered, working closely with the devolved administrations, communities and landowners to do so.

The consultation closes on 11 September 2020.

Overview:

Potentially this could be the most significant opportunity for forestry since the formation of the Forestry Commission some 100yrs ago.  Our view is that we need to be bold and stress the critical need that now exists to address the challenges of climate change and degradation of our Natural Capital.  In 1920 the requirement was to create a strategic timber resource and the successes are well documented.

We believe there now needs to be a similar focus to address the challenges, highlight the benefits that will follow and define how these will be fundamental in meeting both national and international policy targets and obligations.

Historical Performance:

We feel that it is important to acknowledge the effective poor performance of the last 30 years across many aspects of the sector and that this gives us some ground to make up.  Less than half our woodlands are being actively managed, with many of those under active management still in poor condition through over-thinning or lack of good silvicultural management.

We need positive messages to be able to address the question as to why would a landowner, especially in the lowlands and in a time of such uncertainty, create large areas of new woodland when his existing woodlands are at best only marginally profitable.

The Woodland Economy:

Woodland and trees, certainly across the majority of England, are currently viewed as marginal business activity at best, with many owners historically happy to do little more than cover their costs.

The current focus on the extensive range of woodland benefits, provides the catalyst for change.

We are seeing a massive increase in interest in tree planting and woodland management, from both within the sector and outside.  Landowners and other stakeholders are now looking at the feasibility of both new woodlands and the management of existing woodlands.  It will be critical to ensure that they are not put off at the first hurdle, as is currently the case for many.

If the challenging targets as set out in the strategy are to be delivered, then we need to ensure that trees, woodlands and forestry are at the heart of the rural economy and to recognise, evaluate and fund all the benefits they do and will provide.

We need to celebrate woodlands and those that support, own and manage them.

We believe that this is a uniquely exciting time for trees, woodlands and forestry in England and we look forward to policies and support structures coming forward within the England Tree Strategy to put them back at the heart of rural business.

The consultation is open to all and will close formally on 11 September so if you have not already done so, time to register your views is running out and if you have an interest in this area then we would encourage you to make sure that you take part and that your views are heard.

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