Forests have key role to nature’s recovery

Wednesday 27th June 2012

Woodland ride cpt Zsuzsanna BirdWoodland ride cpt Zsuzsanna Bird

Ahead of the publication of the Independent Panel on Forestry’s final report on the future of forestry in England (4 July), The Wildlife Trusts set out seven criteria they want to see included to ensure nature’s recovery is secured.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“We will judge the Panel’s report against our ‘criteria for success’.  We want to see integration, better protection, reconnection and restoration of woodlands and a new remit for the Forestry Commission.

“There should be a Public Forest Estate with a new purpose, focused on nature, people’s connection to nature and the delivery of other public benefits.

“We intend to engage with the Government to ensure any positive recommendations are acted upon, and to strengthen those which may not go far enough for wildlife.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ seven criteria

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.

Paul Wilkinson added:

“The Public Forest Estate represents the single biggest opportunity to implement the recommendations made in last year’s Natural Environment White Paper, including the Lawton Review.  It is critical that this opportunity is taken.”

Notes to Editors:

The Independent Panel on Forestry
The Independent Panel on Forestry was established on 17 March 2011 by the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman MP, to advise government on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England.  The Panel is chaired by the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool.  Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, sits on the Panel in a personal capacity.  The panel’s final report will be published on Wednesday 4 July 2012.

The Wildlife Trusts have engaged with the Panel at every opportunity.  Our recommendations to the Panel reflect our vision for A Living Landscape and enshrine the thinking about nature’s recovery in the Lawton Review and Natural Environment White Paper.  The Wildlife Trusts submitted a response to the Panel’s call for views, which can be downloaded at

The Natural Environment White Paper
The Government’s White Paper, published in June 2011, emphasises the intrinsic, economic and social value of the natural environment.  It also endorses the need for a landscape-scale approach to securing nature’s recovery.

The Wildlife Trusts (TWT)
There are 37 individual Wildlife Trusts in England.  The Wildlife Trusts have more than 740,000 members in England including 140,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch.  Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas.  Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.

As a charity concerned with protecting wildlife sites and securing nature’s recovery, The Wildlife Trusts’ key interest is to ensure places rich in nature are identified and protected for the future.

The Wildlife Trusts’ vision of A Living Landscape is a recovery plan for nature which involves enlarging, improving, creating and joining up wildlife-rich areas of land to create a connected ecological network across the UK.  Woodlands are a key part of that ecological network.  The Wildlife Trusts want to see all of the existing native woodlands safeguarded.  In some areas conifer plantations should be restored to their former glory as heath, bog or broadleaved woodland habitats.  To fulfil our vision we are committed to securing the best use and management of all land, including forests and woods, for the benefit of people and wildlife

Historic background on The Wildlife Trusts’ work in woods and forests
World War II saw large-scale felling of ancient broadleaved woods and their conversion to conifers to grow and supply timber for the war effort, as we were no longer able to rely on timber imports.  In the 1950s and 60s, to secure long-term supplies of timber, there was extensive planting of conifers on semi-natural habitats such as heathland, grassland, bog and wetland.  As a result, during the 20th Century, 40% of England’s ancient woodland was converted to plantations.  Woodlands have also been lost or damaged through urban and agricultural development and now, ancient woodlands cover just three per cent of England’s land area.  Of the remaining ancient woodlands, 80% are less than 20 hectares in size and half of these are even smaller - less than five hectares.

For many decades Wildlife Trusts have tried to stem the tide against forestry practices destroying key habitats such as bogs and heathlands and have safeguarded precious ancient woodlands against destruction.  The Wildlife Trusts care for more than 16,000 ha of woodland in England alone.

We're also involved with many community woodlands and help to advise on woodland creation projects.  Many Wildlife Trusts are also involved with increasingly large-scale schemes to create and restore other wildlife habitats such as heathland and wetland within woodlands.  Find out more about The Wildlife Trusts and woodland conservation work with community woods, nature reserves and restoration schemes.

Tagged with: Living Landscapes