Written by Phil Brown, Badger Bushcraft Tuesday, 01 February 2011 16:19
With concern over the proposed sell off of our woodlands in the United Kingdom I was urged to write to my MP, Mr Damian Green, earlier today and have received a response.
I wrote the following:-
“Dear Mr Green,
As a passionate outdoorsman and educator of bushcraft and various nature related subjects I feel compelled to write to express my deep concern at the proposed sell off of our woodlands.
The limited woodlands of the United Kingdom are an essential resource for both biodiversity and local employment. I firmly believe in the preservation of woodlands in public ownership for future generations. It is vital and a fundamental right that access to the limited forests in the United Kingdom is maintained and that wildlife is protected. I'm very keen to hear where you stand on this issue, particularly as there is a vote about it in Parliament this week calling for a rethink.
Recent information on an internet poll states that "84% of people said they want to keep our woodlands in public hands" and I would also support this wholeheartedly.
I hope you are willing to vote to keep the forests public and support the motion calling for a rethink on Wednesday?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Badger Bushcraft Head Instructor”
To which he replied later in the same day:-
"Damian Green MP
HOUSE OF COMMONS
LONDON SW1A 0AA
1st February 2011
Dear Mr Brown,
Thank you for your e-mail about forests.
I, like you, regard this issue as of paramount importance with regards to protecting the public’s access rights and enjoyment of our forests, and securing our natural heritage. Locally, I am a particular lover of King’s Wood near Challock, where my family have spent many hours over the years.
The Government has published a consultation paper which sets out a range of options for ownership or management of the forests in England which are currently run by the Forestry Commission. The Commission is currently responsible for a fifth of England’s woodlands. The consultation itself can be found at this web-link www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/forests/index.htm and I would strongly encourage you to take part in this process.
Over the last thirteen years, the Labour Government sold over 25,000 acres of forestry land with few protections. By contrast, the Government’s consultation paper guarantees protections on rights to access – our ability to take the dog for a walk, go cycling or horse riding in the woodland we know and love – and maintaining and improving biodiversity. The paper also sets out how heritage forests could be transferred to charitable trusts, while commercial land could be leased, with strict protections build into its clauses.
The Government’s key commitments in the consultation include:
- Enshrining in law the commitment that no Heritage Forests such as the New Forest or Forest of Dean, can be sold to the private sector;
- Offering first refusal to community groups or civil society organisations in sales of local woodland;
- Guaranteeing access and benefits in any sales of commercial forests by only selling land on a leasehold basis;
- Preventing the sale of any site in which more than 10 per cent are Planted Ancient Woodlands.
The consultation has been shaped by these over-riding principles:
- To protect and enhance biodiversity;
- To maintain public access for recreation and leisure for activities such as horse riding and cycling;
- To ensure the continuing role of the woodlands in climate change mitigation;
- To protect nationally important landscapes.
The types of woodland held by the state, in the form of the Forestry Commission, generally fall into the following categories; heritage forests, small scale local woodlands and large commercially valuable forests. Clearly local people will have a strong view as to what category woodland near them falls into – heritage, local woodland or commercial sites – and they will have an opportunity to get involved. Any land transferred to a new ownership or management will be subject to the same strict legal controls that are already in place including country rights of way protection, planning restrictions, wildlife conservation laws and felling licence requirements.
I would strongly encourage you to take part in the consultation process. The Government’s response to this will be published in the summer.
Please rest assured that this Government, with my full support, will protect our forests better than ever before.
Please just spend a few moments and join the cause at http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/save-our-forests
and to be part of the consultation here www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/forests/index.htm