‘The Forestry in England Inquiry: Seeing the Wood for the Trees’ report supports the forestry sector’s call for a radical rethink on woodland creation and forestry in a post Brexit era, says the Royal Forestry Society (RFS).
And it throws down the gauntlet to Government to ensure forestry is placed on a par with agriculture and other land uses in rural land management policy as the discussions progress.
The RFS was among witnesses to give oral evidence to the Inquiry and praises the report by the EFRA Sub Committee for recommendations to:
- Increase the rate of new woodland creation
- Simplify the grant schemes by, among other measures, establishing a one-stop shop for grant applications and processing
- Create a single grant scheme to support agriculture and forestry
- Move towards a greater balance in broadleaf and conifer planting
- Incentivise more woodlands to be brought back into management
- Increase collaboration between DEFRA and other Government departments to ensure forestry’s potential contribution to the economy is recognised in areas such as building construction
But there are fears that it does not go far enough in:
- Challenging Government to develop a single integrated land use policy for forestry and agriculture
- Advocating greater investment in the forestry supply chain
- Putting the case for more research into tree pests and diseases
“We welcome this report which shines a light on forestry’s often overlooked and undervalued contribution to the economy, environment and society. The report’s call to simplify the Countryside Stewardship Scheme is welcome, but is not sufficient to accelerate new woodland creation. The in-built barriers to forestry in current land management policies need to be removed and Brexit is a one-time opportunity to do so, ” says RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd.
An acknowledgement that forest research in England is currently ‘ underfunded’ and ‘ Any further reduction in research funding could leave England ill-prepared for future pest and disease outbreaks’ led to the report to call for Government to clarify how it: ” will fill the gap in forestry research funding for organisations such as Forest Research after the UK leaves the European Union, where practicable this could involve greater co-operation with the private sector.” But there was no mention of specific funding for research into what many woodland owners say is the number one threat to their woodlands, grey squirrels.
RFS President Sophie Churchill sounds a warning: “Much of the research that is currently ongoing, is as a result of European and international collaborations. As Brexit moves closer there is an urgent need for commitments to continuity of such research which will benefit us all.
” And, as new grants and incentive schemes are developed, we need to have confidence that the Government will be staffed up to deliver on them.”
The report scrutinised the work the Government has undertaken since the publication of the Independent Panel on Forestry (IPF) Report in 2012 and the overall effectiveness of forestry policy, support and strategy in England.
Sophie added: ” We look forward to some robust debates as the Committee’s recommendations go to DEFRA. There is much that was good in the IPF report and much to take forward from this report. We will be watching to ensure that it get acted upon.”
The full report is available here, Forestry in England: Seeing the wood for the trees,