Independent Panel on Forestry

The panel was set up in 2011, following a public outcry at possible plans to sell off the publicly owned Forestry Commission woods.  The final panel report was published this month and is available from the Defra web-site.  While the panel was a response to opposition of the sale of publicly owned woods, the Panel’s brief extended to cover all aspects of forestry in England (forestry is a devolved responsibility in government).  The report concluded that the Copmmission’s woodlands should remain in public ownership, and that there was a need for increased –lanting and woodland creation.  England is one of Europe’s least wooded countries.  The Panel also called for increased recognition of the wildlife, recreation and health benefits of woodland, with a greater emphasis on protecting the conservation value of our ancient woodlands.  These are generally of the highest wildlife value, having been in continuous woodland cover for over four hundred years.  There is lots of good stuff in the report, but most aspects requiring more public funding.  A difficult ask in the current economic climate!  The Government is due to respond in spring 2013.  Perhaps not unrelated to the public outcry, both the Secretary of State for the Environment and minister responsible for forestry have changed.  Instead of Caroline Spelman and Jim Paice, the response will be coming from Owen Paterson and David Heath.