The future of England publicly owned forests

David Sulman, Chief Executive of UKFPA

Photograph by 38 Degrees

The campaign to stop the sell off of England’s forests is going really well with over  half-a-million people have signed the petition . As well as members of the public, the campaign has also received support from some unlikely sources. David Sulman-the Chief Executive of the UK Forest Product Association, who look after the technical and commercial interest of British-grown timber processors- has writtedn a blog post about why he thinks England’s forests should remain in public ownershup.

England’s publicly owned woodlands and forests, which are sustainably managed to internationally recognised Standards, are a unique national natural resource, that provide valuable economic, social and environmental benefits for us all.

Not only do our forests and woodlands give us many leisure and recreation opportunities and enhance biodiversity, but they support thousands of jobs in the rural economy too. The commercial timber crops provide the raw material for Great Britain’s wood processing industry – sawmills and panelboard plants – which produce products for many markets and uses. Some people continue to be critical of conifers, such as Spruce and Pine; but they forget the benefits that they provide for us all. The face of forestry has changed over the years to reflect these concerns and we need to ensure that we have the right trees, in the right places, at the right time.

Our forests and the timber products sourced from them help to tackle climate change too: trees absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, as they grow, locking it in the wood, where it remains for as long as the wood is used as a product. Climate change experts agree that we urgently need to be planting more trees and using more wood products, in place of energy intensive materials. Furthermore, wood sourced from our forests reduces our demand for imported wood.

The Forestry Commission consistently brings wood to the market on a sustainable basis and offers the opportunity for businesses to buy, in an open and transparent way, whereas wood supply from the many and diverse private sector growers can be less reliable and sporadic. Businesses need continuity of wood supply if they are to have confidence to continue to invest for the future. The Forestry Commission earns significant income from its commercial timber operations; typically about £25 million per year, which helps to offset the costs of providing the many other public benefits that we all appreciate.

We believe that the Government’s proposals are a ‘recipe for disaster’; there is no compelling case for these fundamentally flawed plans, which if implemented, will be regretted by generations to come. England’s publicly owned woodlands and forests must remain in public ownership, so that we can all continue to enjoy the many benefits they provide.