The parliamentary Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee published a new report Forestry in England: seeing the wood for the trees last month on International Day of Forests. The publication states that the creation of new woodlands is “essential” to achieve the “many environmental, social and economic benefits” they supply.
The Committee’s view: “We are not convinced the Government will do its part to contribute towards the ambition of England to have 12% woodland cover by 2060.” It also calls on the Government to “clarify whether it remains committed to the 2060 ambition and how it will bring about the step change needed in planting to meet this, including setting woodland creation targets for five-year intervals”.
While indicating that well-functioning grants schemes are “essential” to incentivise planting, unfortunately, the report defines the current Countryside Stewardship Scheme as “not fit for purpose” and “a barrier to greater woodland creation”.
The report calls for a one-stop shop for forestry grants “on day one” of Brexit; a single grant scheme to support both agriculture and forestry.
It acknowledges the Government can only do so much to encourage landowners to manage their forests and woodland and it recommends the Government should consult land management and forestry organisations on how it can encourage landowners to bring their woodland into management. In addition, it recommends that the Forestry Commission includes information on the amount of managed woodland in its summary facts and figures document.
The report states that it will hold the Government to account for delivery of the target to plant 11 million trees by 2020 and to do its part to contribute towards the 2060 ambition.
The publication warns that leaving European Union could have a negative impact on funding for tree pest and disease research and, describes forestry research in England as “already underfunded”. The report calls the Government to explain how it will overcome the gap in forestry research funding, for organisations such as Forestry Research after Brexit; possibly through greater co-operation with the private sector.