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 The previous decision to sell off 15% of the estate is rescinded, and I’ve been able to restore the budget that was cut as a result, and put a little more money in to ensure we take forward our proposals.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.
Advert

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.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

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

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRoland 28th Sep - 9:16am
    Just to spoil the party :) The "Building a school system that works for everyone" consultation may be found by following the link at the...
  • User AvatarMeg Thomas 28th Sep - 9:12am
    Could someone explain to me why the strike was about patient safety rather than juniour doctors terms and conditions? I'm just not getting it. I...
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 28th Sep - 8:17am
    Roland -we should not expect too much from the ASI ;-) but its paper and the one that preceded it before the vote did show...
  • User AvatarSimon Freeman 28th Sep - 6:53am
    On our Supertrams and busses in Sheffield there are seats designated as priority ones for people with restricted mobility. I always avoid these if I...
  • User AvatarTsar Nicholas 28th Sep - 4:43am
    @Simon Shaw - (1) I didn't say that tehr ehas been a shift but the Obama administration is considering it. Putting ABMs in Romania and...
  • User AvatarRichard Fortescue 27th Sep - 11:55pm
    David You make an interesting point, but it remains that I have a problem with selection at 11, for the reasons that Rebecca highlights. Comprehensive...