The history, geology, biology, demography, and geography of the UK is not just intrinsically linked to the main of Europe, it is part of Europe. Ignore the bureaucracy of Brussels or any entrenched stereotyping of the closest neighbours to the Island state, the fact is, whether some English like it or not, that the UK’s natural heritage is European. Since pre Roman times our woodlands and trees have been part of a European trade that has not shaped the history of Britain – it is the history of Britain.
In more recent history English oak made the Royal Navy the best in the world and subsequently allowed for Britain to be the dominant strength in Europe and further – across the world and whilst we have witnessed in recent times a lessening of this strength, there has never been any risk to the UK’s voice weakening around the globe in terms of forest science. Until today that is.
Whilst the rest of the world recognise and celebrate forests and European neighbours enjoy the process of developing pure sustainable forest management ideals the English government has decided to sell off their public forests despite the vast quantity of research, published material, management data and economical analysis which illustrates the idiocy of such an action. A stoic stance has been taken by the coalition government, with copied and pasted replies to huge swath of those who have appealed to their better judgement, to carry on regardless with a worthless process.
Reference is made back to an ongoing public consultation, completely ignoring the results of the 2009 public consultation. The 2011 public consultation contains a flawed map, it contains useless and ineffectual case studies, (indeed reference is made by way of case study to something that has not even happened yet!).
The institution of the Forestry Commission, seen as the gold standard of management and research across Europe and across the world has been called into question as being less fit than a charity, the Woodland Trust, who are able to achieve what little they do, because of grant money from the FC.
As a European colleague said to me ’‘What you have to achieve in convincing the government now, appears similar to taking a ‘creationist’ to the Natural History museum for a long day trip studying fossils – they will not listen to reason, science or fact’’.
The ramifications are huge – in Europe the only equivalent case studies in selling off public forest estate would be the lesser eastern bloc new member countries to the EU, who have had no choice but to privatise some forest land after the fall of the communist regime. The results affected the UK, huge floods of unsustainable felled timber released onto the European market weakened the UK timber industry to an extent where part funding of the FC had to come by way of central government funds – who by obligation post Rio 1992 have to fund sustainable forest management progression.
How can we be assured that the woodlands will be protected? There are no cited new measures to do this. Public access will have to be diminished, there is no choice to the new landowners who cannot afford a dual purpose management ideal. Sustainable forest management will simply disappear within the boundaries of the UK and worse still will allow other states to copy this ‘instant financial gain’ model introduced into the world at a time when all thinking is to the contrary.
Thus the UK’s voice, not just in Europe but globally, will become a whisper.
”No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Donne, Meditation XVII