ICF Joins Call on Government to Prevent Forestry Commission Merger
In an open letter to Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the ICF and other leading bodies concerned with the management of England’s woodlands have joined forces to call on the Government to keep Forestry Commission England as a distinct body. The letter, which is published in the letters page of today’s The Daily Telegraph is set out below and puts forward the argument against the merger of FCE with other government bodies.
Following the merger of Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales, to form Natural Resources Wales, which became operational on 1 April 2013, and the current triennial review of the Environment Agency and Natural England, the demise of FC England is a very real threat. The Independent Panel, which included ICF Executive Director Shireen Chambers, recognised the unique role played by the Forestry Commission and recommended that it became a champion for forestry in England. Our profession is a small one, but one that consistently punches above its weight; the demise of forestry professionals within government is a threat that could weaken this.
Industry, lobbying, professional and community bodies are all represented in the 13-strong group to have put their names to the letter, on behalf of the many woodland owners and users who rely on FC England to act as a vocal partner to champion, protect and increase the many benefits from our woodlands and forests.
Open letter to Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
SIR – As representatives of hundreds of thousands of people who own, work in and enjoy England’s woodlands, we call on the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs not to merge the Forestry Commission with Natural England or the Environment Agency.
A merger would distract front-line staff at a time of threat from tree pests and diseases, and it would threaten, over time, the professional expertise built up in the Forestry Commission.
In recent years, we have seen the commission adapt to become more of a partner with bodies like ours, less focused on regulation and more on helping to promote woodland management, supporting public access and the planting of new woodlands.
We need the commission, working with us, to continue on that path, not distracted by a merger with larger bodies that do not share our passion for woodlands and the knowledge of how to manage them sustainably.
We look to the commission as a partner in the new forest policy for England, and the recently announced Grown in Britain initiative that aims to reconnect people with woodlands and the wood products they produce, helping to develop a low-carbon economy.
Stuart Goodall – Director, Confederation of Forest Industries
Sue Holden – Chief Executive, Woodland Trust
Jonathon Porritt – Our Forests
Benedict Southworth – Chief Executive, Ramblers
Hen Anderson – Forest Campaigns Network, Save Our Woods
Shireen Chambers – Chief Executive, Institute of Chartered Foresters
John White – Chief Executive, Timber Trade Federation
Alastair Kerry – Director General, Wood Panel Industries Federation
Simon Lloyd – Development Director, Royal Forestry Society
Roy Wakeman – President, British Woodworking Federation
David Sulman – Executive Director, United Kingdom Forest Products Association
John Dye – President, TIMCON
Jan Ashdown – Tarset, 2050 Community Interest Company