Invest in forests to reap rewards

Wednesday 30th January 2013

Walkers in Strid Wood credit Denise Blair

As plans for England’s forests are about to be unveiled, The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to recognise the true value of England’s woodlands for nature and the nation.

On Thursday (31 January), the Government will respond to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report.  The Wildlife Trusts want to see strong Government support for the Panel’s recommendations and commitment to invest in England’s woods and forests, which already provide huge benefits to the nation. 

Maintaining an independent public body to manage the Public Forest Estate, with a stronger focus on nature, people’s enjoyment of woodlands and sustainable woodland management, will help to release the PFE’s full potential and secure nature’s recovery.

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

“The Government must realise this opportunity.  The Public Forest Estate is a tremendous national asset.  It has the potential to deliver even more benefits for wildlife and people.  We currently invest £20 million a year which provides an estimated return of £400million.  At 20:1 this is a phenomenal return, providing huge benefits to the nation.

“The Public Forest Estate has the potential to help achieve the objectives of the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper through the integration, better protection, reconnection and restoration of woodlands. 
“We want to see stronger protection for existing woodlands, especially ancient woodlands; urgent restoration of areas of lowland heathland, meadow and other internationally important open habitats planted with conifers; and the re-connection of woods at a landscape-scale.

“The Wildlife Trusts look forward to working in partnership with the Government agencies, local communities and others to achieve these aims and secure nature’s recovery.”


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 was chaired by the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool.  Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, sat on the Panel in a personal capacity.  The panel’s final report was published on Wednesday 4 July 2012.

The Wildlife Trusts engaged with the Panel at every opportunity.  Our recommendations reflected our vision for A Living Landscape and enshrined 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)
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.