Feb 21st, 2011
Save our forests – campaign briefing
By Nat Whalley
The forest sell-off – what’s happened so far
The government is planning a massive sell-off of our national forests. We can’t let that happen. We need to stop these plans. National treasures like the The Forest of Dean, Sherwood Forest and The New Forest could be sold off. Once they are gone, they will be lost forever.
We want our forests to be safe in the hands of the public, managed sustainably, and to last for future generations to enjoy.
The “Save our Forests” campaign
In just one month nearly 80,000 people signed the “Save our forests” petition.
Other groups are beginning to sound the alarm too:
- “This sale is likely raise a tiny amount but could do immeasurable damage and cost the nation dearly” – The Woodland Trust
- “The future ownership and management of land that has high public value should be carefully considered. The proposed land sales are driven by the need to generate quick cash, but they must not be at the expense of protecting our natural capital, which is irreplaceable.” – RSPB
- The media has picked up on the story and is questioning the government’s plans:
- ‘Given the benefits and Defra’s push to get people planting more trees, it seems strange the government has announced a sell-off of forest and woodland in England to help reduce the country’s budget deficit.’ – The Metro
- ‘In 1992 John Major’s Conservative government – also looking to save money in a recession – drew up plans to privatise the Forestry Commission’s giant estate. However it was later abandoned following a study by a group of senior civil servants, amid widespread public opposition.’ – The Daily Telegraph
- ‘Many of England’s best-loved forests and woodlands may be sold to large landowners, housing developers and international power companies in what could be the UK’s greatest change of land ownership since the second world war.’ – The Guardian
- Environment Minister Caroline Spelman, who is the driving force behind the mass sell-off, has already been forced to respond to this barrage of criticism by environmental organisations, unions and wildlife groups. Her junior minister Jim Paice is the man who came up with the idea.
What Can You Do? In this opening phase of the campaign, all of us will be doing three key things;
- Join the campaign – sign the petition here.
- Sound the alarm – telling your friends and family about these plans is a great way to spread the word. Bring it up over a cup of tea, put it on your Facebook wall.
- Go to the Campaign Hub for the latest updates, and we’ll be uploading resources there to help you sound the alarm, persuade your MP, organise a local campaign and get your local media on board.
- A government economic study released earlier this year calculated that our forests provide £2,100 in value per hectare per year if benefits such as erosion protection, pollution absorption, carbon sequestration, health provision are included. – The Guardian
- Forests provide 167,000 jobs in Britain and have over 50 million visitors a year – more than the seaside! – UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology
- Most of the UK was once covered by forest. In the past 5000 years, we have lost around 90% of it. – WWF UK
- In 1992, John Major’s Conservative government – also looking to save money in a recession – drew up plans to privatise the Forestry Commission’s estate. However it was later abandoned amid widespread public opposition. – The Daily Telegraph
- Forests are net absorbers of carbon dioxide while they are grow, but then release the gas when they are cut down. – UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology
- Woodland also performs a variety of valuable natural “services” to the ecosystem, including including carbon sequestration, protecting soils from erosion, reducing flooding, providing shelter, shade, cooling and windbreaks, and conserving biodiversity. – UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology
- Nearly a thousand trees in Sherwood Forest are 600 years old or more and the forest houses 1500 species of beetle and 200 types of spiders. – BBC Website
- The New Forest is home to the New Forest Cicada, the only cicada native to Great Britain. Several species of sundew are also be found in the Forest, as well as the Southern damselfly. – BBC Website
Flora & Fauna
- Many of Britain’s most famous writers and artists have been inspired by our forests. Shakespeare’s As You Like It is set in the mythical forest of Arden, Thomas Hardy penned his famous novel The Woodlanders, and poets like Wordsworth and Byron wrote epic poets in the Romantic era.
- Winnie the Pooh, one of our nation’s best-loved characters, lives in 100 Acre Wood with Piglet, Owl, and the ever-gloomy Eeyore.
- Studies show that being close to green space encourages exercise, and therefore helps to fight obesity. Lack of physical activity costs the economy in England alone over £8 billion a year. – University of Essex
- Woodland has also been shown to offer relief from stress and access to it is beneficial for children’s development and overall health. Mental health problems, which affect one in six people in the UK, cost the economy over £23 billion. – The Woodland Trust