There cannot be many other professions that are so heavily infiltrated and usurped by ‘others’ as the UK Arboricultural & Forestry industry.
Conservationists, economists, politicians and even celebrities happily carry on not just discussing what to do with the trees in our landscapes, but implementing policy as well, as though ‘Tree Pros’ do not exist.
Some other land management professions suffer from the same and I honestly believe that this disenfranchisement is one of the greatest threats to our landscapes and biodiversity contained within them.
Indeed much damage has already been done and biodiversity continues to decline despite huge funding and a myriad of NGOs and Quangos dedicated to natural elements within the landscape. A lot of discussion and a lot of flawed decision making has occurred because of the absence of the voice of the land management practitioners in their place.
“The development of an environmental policy as part of state forestry in Scotland was not so much driven by external pressures from conservation organisations but by a combination of economic and social pressures in the Highlands and the fact that many foresters are sensitive to the environment in which they work.”
Kornelis Jan Willem Oosthoek
The hurry to install Biodiversity Offsetting is a classic example of ignoring practitioners yet again. Which is odd in so far that much rhetoric appears favourable to practitioners – but as offsetting allows for the dumping of sustainable development measures in any particular place then practitioners who could deliver such measures could also be dumped.
Site specific land management goes out of the window together with potential funding direct from the developer towards practitioners. Could BS5837 and other standards, guidelines and simply ‘good practice’ be deemed ‘red tape’ and slashed, with Biodiversity Offsetting used as an exemption?
Valuing nature in financial terms is often cited as ‘radical’ and ‘innovative’ yet Helliwell’s amenity valuation system has been in use since 1967. Subsequently a very different tree valuation system, CAVAT and others were devised all providing a tangible value and a valuable tool for the practitioner in decision making, client liaison, insurance purposes, etc,. I fear such tree valuations will also now be considered to be within the ‘red tape’ slashing by the current coalition. Those who devised these valuations state it is still not a ‘true’ value, as this is impossible to do – which is why study into the wellbeing and health benefits of a tree are so important also. In trying to go one stage further and add in that most vital of values, a persons personal value of a tree (the tree in which they climbed when young, the tree under which they were proposed to, or the tree into which a loved one crashed) one must be in direct communication with people in their place, something that practitioners do on a daily basis.
With the rush towards using the value of nature as a tool to enable development would it not have been sensible to have investigated tree valuation methods first? It would prevent a huge waste of public and developers money.
The ignoring of practitioners by other ‘stakeholders’ (whose work allows them to dominate discussion in conferences, online and in the halls of central and local government whilst the practitioner is working in the landscapes being discussed) is somewhat inevitable given a host of other disenfranchising factors.
In schools land, garden and tree management is considered, quite wrongly, to be a fall back career for the less gifted. There is a huge shortfall of properly qualified land management practitioners and the National Trust are amongst others in highlighting a lack of properly qualified head gardeners – yet pay their existing head gardeners an appallingly low salary!? A hotel or restaurant knows it needs to pay its head chef well – why has this fundamental good business sense not translated into land management?
Indeed the economics of land industry are somewhat bizarre. If you read most press releases and most ‘policy’ discussion with regards funding two words dominate; ‘volunteers’ and ‘grants’. With the flow of money into land management it is quite clear that some very lucky people are enjoying huge salaries at the expense of practitioners.
Added to this is the rogue trader element, which arboriculture and landscaping is severely affected by – to such an extent that the rogue trader and unqualified persons influence has reduced the ‘going rates’ for all.
It is no surprise therefore that a steady ‘skill drain’ of foresters and arboriculturalists has been ongoing for many years. You will not struggle to find UK tree pros (as well as horticulturists and other land management practitioners) across the globe.
As policy making as well as other initiatives for our landscapes continues to proffer ‘solutions’ which are lacking the site specific research and are all too often found damaging after being applied, it is the practitioner who has prevented considerable wider damage due to their knowledge and care of a place, and most importantly it is they who embrace the complexity and diversity of a place and celebrate the reality that we don’t fully know all there is too be known yet about a place – and this is what makes all landscapes wonderful.
The rapidly growing amount of practitioners online and engaging in social media is very very welcome and it is interesting to see who these practitioners engage with and it is pleasing, although not a huge surprise, to see considerable following of these practitioners by interested public. No nonsense wins attention, but is it enough to counteract the volume of spurious policy ideas and actual policy? Time will tell – but lines are clearly being drawn in the sand and it is apparent that the majority of the public will be behind the practitioners line.