A coalition of UK conservation groups is calling for a new national charter for trees, woods and people.
Led by the Woodland Trust, 48 conservation and cultural groups have launched a campaign for a new charter for trees in 2017, the 800-year anniversary of the signing of the original Charter of the Forest by Henry III. This protected and restored the right of people to access and use the royal forests – crucial at the time for grazing livestock, collecting firewood and foraging for food.
The coalition says it is time for a new charter, as woods come under “unprecedented threat” from development, pests and disease and climate change and trees risk being “neglected, undervalued and forgotten”.
Community groups, clubs, councils and committees are being encouraged to feed into the building of the charter for trees. To kickstart the campaign, people across the UK are being urged to share their “tree stories” of treasured or significant moments that would not have been possible without trees.
A new, broader charter would recognise the importance of trees in 21st-century British society, celebrate their enormous contribution to public life, and ensure future generations could benefit from them by ensuring access to nature and protection of ancient woodland and other habitats, its backers argue.
It would also cover forestry, the value of trees and woods in terms of finance and other benefits to people, the importance of new planting and making sure landscapes are resilient to the threats they face, they say.
Beccy Speight, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: “Our collective ambition is for a charter that puts trees back at the heart of our lives, communities and decision-making – where they belong. The charter will provide guidance and inspiration to allow us all to appreciate, preserve and celebrate our trees and woods for what they do for us in so many different ways.
“Inspired by something that happened 800 years ago, there is no better time than now to shine the spotlight again on the benefits that trees and woods bring to us all today and to future generations.”
Charter for trees
Research for the Woodland Trust by Europe Economics in March last year found the total value of woodland to the UK’s economy is around £270bn. Living near of having access to trees also provides invaluable health and wellbeing benefits, research shows.
Reductions in the number of people enrolling in forestry, land management and environmental courses compounds the problem as it means there are not enough skilled and informed people in the sector, the trust warns.