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Govt finally concedes 'No sell-off' for public forests

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  • marksimonbrown
    No sell-off for public forests 31 January 2013 BBC News online Ref: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21275432 The government has announced that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2013
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      'No sell-off' for public forests
      31 January 2013
      BBC News online
      Ref: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21275432

      The government has announced that it will not sell off publicly owned
      forests in England.

      It says it will create a new public body that will hold in trust the
      nation's forests for future generations.

      Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was responding to a report that
      called the estate a "national asset" that should not be sold off.

      He also announced that the policy of selling off 15% of the estate to
      cover costs would be rescinded.

      Mr Paterson gave few details of the new, independent body that would
      own, maintain and safeguard the public forest estate except that it
      would be set up in the longer term.

      "The new body will have greater independence from Government and
      greater freedom to manage its resources and maximise its income but
      with the right safeguards in place to operate for the long-term
      benefit of people, nature and the economy," he said.

      The Independent Panel on Forestry (IPF) was established in March 2011
      after a ministerial U-turn on plans to dispose of a chunk of its
      woodlands.

      The Rt Rev James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool and who chaired the Panel,
      welcomed the government's response saying it was an "unequivocal
      endorsement" of the IPF's recommendations.

      "I welcome the rescinding of the policy for disposal of 15% of the
      estate. This is a recognition that the public benefits that flow from
      forests and woodlands have a legitimate claim on the public purse," he
      said.

      Hen Anderson, co-founder of campaign group Save Our Woods also
      welcomed the government's response, recognising that it was a
      vindication of the 500,000 who signed an online petition against the
      proposal to sell the estate.

      "Very positive - an exciting result for us. Two years ago they were
      flogging off the lot, but a half a million people kicked them in the
      pants, amazing result."

      The IPF also recommended that woodland cover should increase from 10%
      to 15% by 2060. But the government says it will only increase this to
      12%.

      However the government is increasing the amount of money that will be
      spent on forests, boosting the Forestry Commission's budget by £3.5m
      next year to make up for lost income from sales of woodland. They are
      also allocating £2m to recognise the additional pressures arising from
      the outbreak of Ash dieback disease.

      This increased emphasis on protection was a concern for the Woodland
      Trust. A spokesperson said they were "broadly happy" with the
      government's approach but they were concerned that ministers were not
      putting enough emphasis on improvement and expansions in forestry.

      "We need urgent clarification on the government's plans on the future
      of forest services," said the spokesperson.

      Among the other recommendations in last year's IPF report:

      Measurably increasing the quantity and quality of access to
      public and privately owned woodlands;
      Ensuring every child "has an element of woodland-based learning";
      Protecting current funding for woodland management and creation;
      Increasing England's woodland cover from 10% to 15% by 2060;
      Creating a charter, stating that the public forest estate should
      be "held in trust for the nation".

      There are in excess of 1,000 publicly owned forests in England,
      covering an estimated 258,000 hectares.

      The Public Forest Estate (PFE) accounts for 18% of English woodlands,
      and covers about 9% of the nation - one of the lowest percentages in
      Europe.

      The estate has been valued at about £700m and costs about £15m per
      year to manage, equivalent to about 30p per year per person in
      England.
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