The Forestry Commission, which owns and runs 18% of England's woods, has announced significant changes after its budget was cut. These cuts could impact on the public services it currently provides. It is therefore important that the BMC help shape any future recommendations for our forests, by giving the Independent Panel on Forestry our views on why we value forests and woods so much.
Our woodlands and forests have long been a focus for open air recreation, including walking and rock climbing. The BMC has collated a list of climbing crags which are situated within the Forestry Commission Estate; there are many more situated in privately owned woodlands. In addition, there are several crags to be found on private land but to which access is currently gained through the Forestry Commission Estate.
In order to advise Government on the future of forests and woods in England, the Independent Panel on Forestry wants to understand the widest range of views, interests and expertise. Now is the first opportunity to get involved, share your views and make your voice heard to the panel.
Now more than ever, it is important that as many BMC members take this opportunity to express what it is about forests and woods that we value so much and why. This week we learnt that the Forestry Commission, as part of the Government’s Spending Review, will be hit with a loss of 250 jobs in England, the closure of many regional offices, and twelve forest areas will be merged into six new districts under the plans - all impacting on what the Forestry Commission currently delivers.
The main concern with these job losses and a potential change in direction is that it may leave the Forestry Commission unable to maintain and deliver the public services it currently provides. In addition, it is unclear how these cuts will impact on the thinking of the Independent Panel and how effective its role in considering “options for enhancing public benefits from all woodland and forests” will now be. In light of the Government’s decision in February to halt the sale of Forestry Commission land, it makes more sense for changes to the structure of the organisation to similarly be put on hold until after the Forestry Panel has reported back to the Secretary of State.
The questions being posed by the Panel are listed below. If you would like to feed in your views directly then please visit the DEFRA website . Alternatively you can email BMC Access & Conservation Officer Cath Flitcroft with your views on what forests and woods mean to you. The BMC will be submitting a full response to the Panel and it would be good to express our members’ views directly.
Question 1 – What do forests and woods mean to you?
Question 2 – What is your vision for the future of England’s forests and woods?
Question 3 – What do you feel to be the benefits of forests and woods to:
a) you personally;
b) society as a whole;
c) the natural environment; and
d) the economy?
Question 4 – We would like to hear about your suggestions of practical solutions and good practice which can be replicated more widely.
Question 5 – What do you see as the priorities and challenges for policy about England’s forests and woods?
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