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Archive for January, 2011

Save our forests!

 The government appears to want to sell our public woodland to raise some cash and get rid of the administrative burden of looking after them. This should not be allowed to happen.

On the other hand, they are not fantastically well managed at the moment by the Forestry Commission or other bodies that look after them. We can use many of them, but often in a restricted way and with little imaginative organisation of events.

A pragmatic solution to all this is for communities to take control of their local woods and to use them as best fits local needs. Everyone would win with this: the government make and save money, the woods are preserved and people get better enjoyment from local countryside. The woods could also be put to use, if wanted, to generate income for the community or help improve welfare (such as youth schemes). The cost to communities would not be great; giving help in raising the cash would be perfect Corporate Social Responsibility for companies.

There are many example of this model across Europe, so it would not be difficult for community groups to work out the best ways to manage their woodland once they own it – just follow examples that already work well.

But proposing this will take a little political backbone, which is likely to be conspicuous by its absence unless there is enough pressure to force the issue. What will help is for as many of us as possible to send an e-mail asking for the forests to be saved for us all. To this end, just copy the wording below into your e-mail system and send to Caroline Spelman (address below). Add your name at the bottom or leave blank, as you like.

Thanks.

 caroline@carolinespelman.com

To: Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Dear Ms Spelman,

RE: DEFRA consultation on forestry sale.

I consider the British woodland to be one of the greatest treasures that the nation owns, regardless of its market value. I wish to have access to this woodland in the future, to see it properly managed for the good of all people and not sold off to the highest bidder. I wish to see our forests safe for future generations, forever.

I am also pragmatic. I understand that the nation needs to raise capital and that some of the loudest voices decrying these changes have previously berated the Forestry Commission just as loudly. I therefore ask you to consider the following proposal.

Sell the forests of Britain to its people. Let community organisations or charities be the only bodies able to bid for this land. The money can be raised by many means, including subscription, adopt-a-tree, corporate sponsorship, grants and many other ways that the ingenuity of the people can invent. We can raise the money, we just need you to sell us our forests.

Our woodland will not be valuable on the open market if sold with sufficient safeguards to ensure they remain accessible to everyone and are conserved for the future. Conversely, this will be their greatest attraction if sold to community organisations; the potential for generating revenue for those communities would simply be an added bonus.

Once owned by the people, their woodlands could become so much more than somewhere to walk the dog: they could become a serious asset of the people. There are many ways that our woodlands can enrich our lives. When communities own their own forests, people will have the power to decide how best to use them and they will continue to have this power as their communities change. Camping for our children, biomass for heating, forest craft or larders: we might all have different aspirations for our woodland, but none of us wish to lose it.

I ask simply that if the ownership of our woodland changes, let it change for the better.

Yours in hope,

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