Optimism for UK Forestry

Following a journey into the multifunctional forest landscape of deep Limousin countryside, (blog to come), it was heartening to read several reports on my return with regards UK forestry.

2 are yet to be published, but one pleasantly surprised me and showed a promising change of direction by the Woodland Trust, (as hinted at by Gabriel Hemery in the last blog post comments thread here).

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/about-us/publications/Documents/state-of-the-uks-forest-report-4865.pdf

Collaboration and talking across the broad spectrum of interests is not as original as described by the WT’s Sian Atkinson’ accompanying blog, the original Save Our Woods (SOW) team having used this technique to forage out the axioms with regards UK forestry and one of the reasons I was attracted to helping them with many others.  But this is a faultless report and very useful.

There is more on the horizon, including in March, 2012, important information with regards urban trees, their current state and future proposals, (making up for the lack of much information on this vital topic thus far integrated into publications, reports and elsewhere).

The independent Forestry Panel preliminary findings are due out at the end of next week and I actually look forward to reading them.

I do fear an over emphasis on new planting will belay the risks associated with planting in diverse and complex locations as found in the UK, but then this is a secondary issue to securing the initial challenge of finding the funding for protecting existing trees let alone funding new planting. But some of the ongoing work underway by SOW and others is set to help with this, including one very exciting project to be unveiled soon, which will go some way in redressing the balance with regards the present lack of a decent voice from UK land management practitioners.

For the first time in this International Year of Forests, I feel optimism for the trees and woodlands of the UK as well as for the security of the Forestry and Arboricultural industry itself, despite the recent, rather daft decision by the Welsh Assembly to create a super Quango out of the FC Wales, EA Wales and CC Wales, which is likely to affect funding for the industry itself and possibly channel much needed resources away from Forest Research.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Optimism for UK Forestry

  1. Stephen

    I am more cynical than you are ET but having read this document which is very clever public relations exercise demonstrates still their despotic attempt to lead and manipulate. OK it is Holden less and the better for it, but this is using others very sensible comments using as you say the save our woods format. Woodland Trust are like a banana republic general waiting for the right moment to pull off a coup d’etat on forestry. I hope whatever you know and whatever the Save our woods guys are up to it keep it independent because until the commission and those linked to it are given back their freedom the fort is defenceless without you.

  2. Gareth Williams

    What this report and it’s excellent list of contributors do is little more than show that issues surrounding forestry have little progressed under their charge. Has it really taken the ill informed coalition policy of 2011 to finally get many of these people to step up to the mark? I am perhaps too harsh but do feel that the reason for this report has been driven by SOW, Our Forests, even yourself and others and some credit is due. Saying that though some of the contributions to the report are very encouraging.

    We do desperately need a stronger forester, arborist and forest contractor voice.

  3. Stephen, thanks, although flattering a bit unfair I feel. The WT have struggled to find their feet this year and I don’t hide my criticism of much of the PR and head office manouevring, but this is a return to them at their best as well as a clear attempt to introduce some really relevant voices which have had little say this year.

    Gareth, I agree with a charge that NGOs have not been prepared for what happened this year or for other significant changes. I am personally very angry that NGOs are reluctant to accept a portion of blame particularly with regards species decline, using it instead as a platform to a) attack policy makers and b) as PR to attract more funding. I am passionate about promoting the worth and talents of the strong practitioner base found in the UK and their vital importance in realising what the above reports and others in the pipeline envisage for the UK. In this regard I think it is perhaps the only excuse for a new group / association in forestry to be born.

  4. Rod Leslie

    I very much agree, it is encouraging and I also agree it isn’t original – what I’m seeing, and its very pleasing, is more and more people catching up with the practical example the Forestry Commission Estate has set – I’ve been trying for several years to use what FC and others have already done to develop a much bigger, less sectoral, outcome foucussed approach to how we use our limited space in England. It’s becoming increasingly urgent as we fail to grapple with climate change and there is no money for the favoured industrial/hi tech approaches favoured by our urban society.

  5. Ian

    For me there has been a problem growing within the woodland trust for many years that they honestly believe they are the oracle in all tree related matter across Great Britain. This is evidently the result of their own management procedure but it has failed this year, as Rod states because they had underestimated the worth and image of the Forestry Commission in its entirety. This report is still labelled as WT led and is a step in the right direction but there are many bridges to rebuild for them and a change of mindset is required because as written elsewhere on this blog, (which is excellent by the way), they have followed a corporate identity which does not sit well within the forestry industry. Something the UK government and many others have got wrong also. Personally and I speak for others here also there has to come a time when action is taken and ongoing discussion finally abates, but it continues and forgive me if I insult anyone here, this talk is continued because it helps the lions share of funding into those discussing rather than actually getting on with things. Give it up, relinquish this control and allow the industry to progress on the forest floor a place where many people involved visit less and less as can be seen in the weed invested pockets of woodland trust estate.

  6. Rod, thanks for your comments. A huge element in all of this is funding and the fact that in the UK funding for any element to do with an external environment is the first to be threatened or removed when times of hardship appear on the horizon can only be counterbalanced by proving the worth of a stable timber industry that offsets these costs. The UK remains a huge importer of illegally felled timber and in terms of demography probably the worse in the world – how does this sit with the fact that the UK population are actually more interested in their natural heritage than other countries and pay monumental amounts of money into conservation NGOs and sit watching natural history programmes in their millions. It makes absolutely no sense. The WT report, via others voices, tells of the necessity of tackling this.
    Which leads me onto to Ian’s comments (many thanks); funding towards discussion is still needed to correct the above paradox. We need tree heroes, we need a media keen to really explore this issue and jump up and down about forest pests and diseases. I for one feel aggrieved that the muscle and wealth of the likes of the WT have been unable to penetrate into this and if they can’t who can, particularly whilst the FC remain a governmental body they can do nothing either. I do look forward to when the shackles are taken off the FC as it is only then when progression on the ground can be highlighted.
    With regards funding towards discussion I know I can speak for many, particularly SOW, that there has not been any at all. Hen Anderson has worked non stop for nothing for the last year, I myself have taken 5 months off to help and many others also. Retired academics and many others are upsetting their partners by concentrating on this and the results will be found in the forthcoming publications up until Spring next year and ongoing work by SOW, OF and others. This lack of funding is testament to the passions of those involved but adds a new dimension, how long do we / can we continue to provide help and free solutions to the NGOs and others who are more than happy to take it, re publish it with their logo without any credit at all? Not for ever and maybe it is time to create a new hub for this activity, a funded one, which can continue to explore and research, highlight pests and diseases and help promote the practitioners working out there in the forest and with individual trees in the cities. But most importantly an independent voice, a think tank of worth to which the NGOs including the WT can seek opinion without either stealing it or facing continued vitriol as they do at present.

  7. Mac

    too true all we ever get is talk and i have paid for all kinds of memberships none of who have done me any good or got anywhere when they should be shouting at the moment. they dont want to do this because if they actually succeed then there is no more need for them. i now know there was no need for them in the first place.

  8. Gareth Williams

    I completly agree Pip and like the idea of an independent hub. This need was demonstrated just last week when with you, i was compelled to challenge some disgraceful comments left on Mark Avery’s blog which betrayed a commonly held view by conservationists and ecologists (certainly by the NGO elite) about Foresters, using them as a scapegoat for they own failings and all too hastily introduced policies. NGOs and in particular the WT are part of the problem and layer upon layer of guidelines, recommendations and policy placed upon foresters is generally absorbed but cannot all be accepted. It is all too much too quickly and rushing PAWS restoration, habitat creation for one identified species etc cannot be achieved in the timescales they want to see without serious detriment to other biodiversity.

    On top of this we are seeing more and more waves of policy we must adhere to by governmental departments using grants as the bribe to ensure landowners comply. We have to alter course again and again despite not all forests being suitable for the kind of multi functionality that is dreamed up in a defra office.

    It is thanks to forestry and other land management professionals that we have any land of value to human beings and wildlife at all. We are subject to easy abuse because there is a lack of a voice for us and the silencing of the FC this year proved it was they who looked out for us.

    This abuse may be in innocence and the tack of the WT may change but damage has been done and we need to develop a new platform as quickly as possible one that can compliment the FC when it emerges from being tranquilised.

  9. Ian

    I like this idea of a hub. A website or forum like the old sow one would work. If we can translate what we do then I think many people would be pleasantly surprised.

  10. James

    The Woodland Trust got it wrong this year. The reasons I believe are simple misjudgement of the real picture, by taking the standard NGO line of thinking it was easy fodder to attack or promote attack on the state policy, with regards PAWS restoration an more, and the civil servants who carry it out on the ground, the Forestry Commission. However with little investigation the FC turned out to be pretty good at what they were doing, with full back up of why they were doing it. As RSPB can attack farmers, their paymasters and the system in general and the National trust and CPRE can do the same with the planning system, the WT found themselves caught in the middle and their friends at Defra turned out to have been wrong also. Why did this happen; because the WT have failed to look at things from a forestry angle. Now that they are doing so, we should expect some real progress. But I think ongoing concern is justified because some of their mistakes were so monstrous.
    The WT now have an image problem from within what should be their safe world of NGOs, (easy to fix) and the wider forestry world, where their ongoing use of volunteers resulting in fairly poor woodland management needs to be tackled. We all need to be much more aware of the threats to our industry and any attempt to lead without example is doomed to failure.
    This report shows a willingness to learn, a willingness to participate and it should not be knocked. It is clear people want and expect an apology from the WT, this we know isn’t going to happen. But I will say that unless the ‘Unpaid Voluntary Work’ angle that all NGOs and government see as a real option disappears, we will see increasing valid concern from those in the industry.

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