David Heath MP writes… The future of our forests

I was delighted when I was asked to take on ministerial responsibility for our forests. If I had any doubt about what forests offer, and I didn’t, I would have been even more convinced as I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the country. Our woodlands are places where people can get out in the fresh air and enjoy walking, bike riding and picnicking. But they’re also important for public health, preserving wildlife, storing carbon dioxide, and have huge potential to provide sustainable employment in some of our most rural areas.

That’s why I have worked hard over recent months to talk to and listen to those with a real interest in the future of our forests. Today I have published the results of that work, the new forestry policy which responds to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report on the future of forestry. And I’m very pleased to say we have been able to embrace the vision and aspirations they set out so clearly.

The public have shown overwhelming support for our public forests and I pay tribute to the many thousands of people who have taken the time over the past two years to write to their MPs about what forests mean to them. People really came together to defend their woodlands against proposals that they were concerned would restrict public access and lose them from public ownership.

So the document I’ve published today makes it clear that the public forest estate will stay in public ownership. The previous decision to sell off 15% of the estate is rescinded, and I’ve been able to restore the budget that was cut as a result, and put a little more money in to ensure we take forward our proposals.

But it goes much further than that. It recognises that keeping the public forest intact and free from political interference is essential to ensuring that free public access to woodlands can be guaranteed for generations to come. So I am proposing that ownership will be transferred to put our forests in trust for the nation, with clear objectives to protect its use. Learning from the depradations of Ash Die-Back, I want to see greatly enhanced protection against disease. I want to improve the management of woodland across the country and encourage its use, both to boost the local economy but provide opportunities for recreation, for community involvement and for education.. And I want us to continue to expand tree cover. I think it’s possible to see 12% of the country covered in woodland by 2060; that’s as much as was the case in the year 1300, so it’s no mean aspiration!

People rightly care passionately about the future of our woods and forests. I hope they will feel confident that Liberal Democrats in Government are not only restoring woodlands to their former glory, but protecting them for generations to come.

Read the Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement at the Defra website.

* David Heath is MP for Somerton and Frome and Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/32973 for Twitter and emails.

One Comment

  • David Wilkinson 1st Feb '13 - 8:00am

    Well done on these proposals, just goes to show how stupid the Tory idea of selling the woodlands was.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User AvatarColin 2nd Sep - 4:58am
    “Don’t think. Don’t bother with the details. You don’t have time to research the arguments; you are too busy, and there’s not enough time, and...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 2nd Sep - 4:12am
    I wonder if part of the solution Dave Page seeks is to provide more information, not less, about the reality of life for jihadists in...
  • User AvatarDavid-1 2nd Sep - 3:28am
    I wanted to say something here, but then it turned out that T-J had said exactly what I was going to.
  • User AvatarDom Hannigan 2nd Sep - 3:20am
    There's clearly an issue with the email list. I did not get this email. I get party emails sometimes, but clearly at other times I...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 2nd Sep - 3:16am
    A Scottish default would surely hurt the rUK pound, because the rUK's debt-to-GDP ratio would go up, making it harder for rUK to pay back...
  • User AvatarT-J 2nd Sep - 1:04am
    It is about risk. But, we are in 2014, not 2008. Earlier this year, the mere suggestion that the European Central Bank was willing to...