Government Receives Final Forestry Panel Report

Government presented with final Forestry Panel Report at stakeholder event in London.

The Independent Panel on Forestry’s Final Report to Government was formally presented to Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, yesterday, Tuesday 10 July, at a National Stakeholder Event organised by Defra. The report, which was published on 4 July, was presented to Ms Spelman by the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Panel, at the gathering at the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.

Addressing the meeting, the Rt Rev James Jones recounted the journey that the panel had taken since it was set up last year and their recognition of the history of forestry and its transition from strategic to multi-purpose forestry objectives over the last century. He talked about the intrinsic passion of people, especially during the stakeholder engagement phase of the process, both those that they met and the many people who sent letters or had written poems, describing it as “touching us in a way that facts and statistics cannot communicate”. He also reminded just who committed people are to a public forest, a fact borne out by the unprecedented level of submissions to the panel.

The Bishop went on to outline the key recommendations from the report before commented on Ms Spelman’s “courage and leadership” in supporting the Independent Panel and thanking Forestry Commission Chair Pam Warhurst for her engagement and leadership on behalf of the Commission.

Responding Ms Spelman thanked the Bishop and the members of the Panel before saying that Government welcomes the report, and now “gets” the message and very much wants an open discussion for the future.

Commenting on the recommendations of the panel, she highlighted that the Government policy is now more woodland, better management of existing woods, conservation of ancient woodland, more native woodland, ecological networks, woodland in towns. That it recognises the need to integrate the value of nature in all decisions being made and that the Public Forest Estate will remain in public ownership.

Ms Spelman noted the Panel’s recommendations on the future of the Public Forest Estate and the Forestry Commission as an organisation but said that the Government would need to take time to consider the options and to define the issues. She agreed that the challenging issue is the resourcing of the changes and initiatives proposed and that partnerships would need to be a part of the way forward.

Ms Spelman confirmed that the Government will announce its response to the report in January 2013.

Pam Warhurst added that the Forestry Commission is an organisation that is forward looking, keen to engage, ready to adapt, anxious to facilitate engagement of others with woods and aims to be a “champion” for trees into the future. She cited the shared passion between all the organisations and individuals involved as making a good foundation to go forward.

Following a questions and answer session where the Secretary of State and the Independent Panel members took questions, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who was attending the meeting, gave a closing speech.

Summary supplied by: ICF member Ted Wilson

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