Independent Panel on Forestry (England)

Panel report published 4 July 2012:  read what The Wildlife Trusts think

Government response published 31 January 2013: read what The Wildlife Trusts think


The Independent Panel on Forestry was established by the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman MP, in March 2011 following the abandonment of controversial proposals relating to the future of the Public Forest Estate in England.

The Wildlife Trusts' Chief Executive, Stephanie Hilborne OBE, was one of 12 panel members providing independent advice to Government in a personal capacity.

The recommendations of the panel - and how the Government responds to these - will shape the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England. This will have a major influence on our opportunity to create A Living Landscape.

To fulfil this vision, we need to secure the best use and management of all land, including forests and woods, for the benefit of people and wildlife. We want to see our wonderful woodlands safeguarded and certain conifer plantations restored to their original state of heathland, bog or ancient wood.

The Panel’s final report was published on 4th July 2012. The Panel stated that it sees “an important continuing role for a national public forest estate…that can adapt and evolve,” a sentiment that we fully endorse.

On 31st January 2013, Government published its response to the Panel's report.  The Wildlife Trusts were especially pleased to see that:

• The Public Forest Estate will continue to be managed by a public body. The Wildlife Trusts will continue to work closely in partnership to ensure the Public Forest Estate delivers for everyone, and with a strong focus on conservation.
• The Government has recognised the need to restore open habitats such as areas of lowland heathland and meadow, which are vitally important for wildlife.
• The value of woodlands to people’s health, education and wellbeing is beginning to be realised and that the Government sees the potential of Forest Schools.

We made the following recommendations to the Panel:

1. A new remit for the Forestry Commission

The Wildlife Trusts want to see a shift in the Forestry Commission so that its primary focus is on nature and the provision of other public benefits. The Public Forest Estate should be an exemplar of sustainable management. This will require a change in the Forestry Commission’s statutory remit.

2. Integration

Forestry should be part of a coherent strategy for the natural environment: woods being one part of a resilient ecological network. Forestry policy and grants should be integrated with other land use and management policies and incentives.

3. Better protection

We want to see better protection for existing woods, especially ancient woodlands.

4. Reconnection of people with the natural environment

People’s access to the Public Forest Estate (PFE) should be protected. Government should also create more opportunities for people to enjoy and be inspired by woodlands and forests outside the Public Forest Estate.

5. Reconnection of woodlands at a landscape-scale

Natural regeneration and tree planting should be encouraged to buffer, extend and link existing woodlands. In all cases, a ‘right tree in the right place’ principle should be adopted.

6. Restoration of existing woodlands

Existing woodlands that could be richer in wildlife should be brought to life by appropriate, sustainable woodland management. This can increase habitat quality and help to reverse declines in woodland wildlife.

7. Restoration of open habitats under plantation forestry

Areas of lowland heathland, meadow and other internationally important open habitats planted with conifers must be restored with urgency.



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The Wildlife Trusts response to the Independent Panel on Forestry call for views (July 2011)185.88 KB