The Woodland Trust is disappointed to see that the Independent Panel on Forestry has failed to make a commitment to review the strength of woodland protection. This was a strong theme in over 4,000 individual emails sent in by Trust supporters in response to the call for views arising out of the specific concerns for the future of the public forest estate.
"The recent Autumn Statement announcement to review the Habitats Regulations and the long debate over proposed streamlining of the planning system underline that protection is not a given into the future," said Hilary Allison, Woodland Trust Policy Director. "The Panel should not assume that rates of woodland loss will remain low in future. We have such a low level of woodland cover with so many pressures on land that we cannot afford to be complacent about protection as an issue.
"Nonetheless, we very much welcome the Panel's initial conclusion to retain a public forest estate which will adapt and evolve in the future, its desire to see a step change in action to increase woodland cover and more access to woodland, and its recognition of the need to restore damaged ancient woods.
"We hope the Panel, having heard the eloquent outpouring of concern and love for England's woods and forests, will ultimately support our vision of doubling native woodland cover so that we bring woods close to more and more people, allowing us to experience why trees matter so much to our day to day lives."
When the Panel was launched in March 2011 the Trust set it three tests:
For further information and/ or interview requests please contact: Alison Kirkman on 08452 935874 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The interim report of the Independent Panel on Forestry was published on December 8 and is available via the Defra website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/forestrypanel/
The Woodland Trust is the UK's leading woodland conservation charity championing native woods and trees. It has more than 200,000 members and its three key aims are: i) to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees ii) to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future iii) to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). Access to its sites is free.