0 Trees and woods face greatest turning point in 100 years

The state coverTwenty of the UK's leading forestry and wildlife bodies have, for the first time, joined together to draw attention to the challenges and opportunities faced by forests, woods and trees, which they say are greater now than at any other time in the last 100 years.

The consortium of groups[1], led by the Woodland Trust and representing a range of interests from timber production, to woodland conservation, to community participation, has collaborated to produce 'The State of the UK's Forests, Woods and Trees'[2], a report to mark the International Year of Forests in 2011[3]. It draws on the latest available evidence, looking at the current state, as well as the future potential, of the UK's tree and woodland resource, urging government to shift up a gear in order to secure a robust future for it.

Woodland Trust Policy Director, Hilary Allison, said: "We have shown, through the publication of this report, that NGOs and other industry bodies can and do work together, and that there is a remarkable degree of consensus. The potential for forests, woods and trees to deliver positive benefits is huge and this report provides the evidence needed to grasp the current opportunity, before it is lost, to embed positive action into policy and, more importantly, practice. Forests, woods and trees are currently on the political agenda in all parts of the UK[4] so this is a real turning point in their history. It's time for government and society to take action to secure their future."

The organisations behind the report agree that the most pressing issues for forests, woods and trees are:

• Securing the benefits of increasing tree and woodland cover to help mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as to deliver a range of other 'ecosystem services'[5] .

• Tackling the unprecedented challenges faced by trees, woods and forests - from climate change, an increase in pests and diseases, the effects of centuries of loss and fragmentation, land-use change, financial constraints and economic conditions.

• Delivering a healthy and resilient forest resource to achieve maximum benefits for people, wildlife, and the wider environment.

All these issues point to:

• the need to recognise and enhance the diversity in form, function, and use of our woods.

• the need for joined-up thinking with supportive government policies that embed forests, woods and trees and enable collaboration within the sector.

• the need for public support and an awareness of the benefits of woodland and why its protection and expansion is essential. The strong emotional reaction to the threat of losing the public forest estate earlier in 2011 needs to be deepened to a real understanding of and support for forests, woods and trees as working landscapes and as crucial habitats for wildlife.

Woodland Trust Conservation Advisor and the report's lead author, Sian Atkinson, added: "We already have a good deal of the research and policy in place to support the above identified needs. It is now essential that these policies are recognised, prioritised and driven into practice with adequate resources behind their implementation."

For more information, contact Alison Kirkman in the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 581121 or media@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

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