More trees please: rural groups call for uplift in woodland cover

02 October 2017

Three leading rural organisations have joined forces to call for “an ambitious uplift in the area of woodland cover in the UK” after Brexit.

The CLA, Woodland Trust and Confor said increased tree planting targets should be introduced, “with clear goals for forest cover that reflect the many benefits [trees] can deliver and that address our present unacceptably low level of woodland cover”.

The three groups launched the joint statement at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester today (Monday, 2 October), where it was presented to Forestry Minister Dr Thérèse Coffey.

The statement, signed by CLA President Ross Murray, Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight and Confor CEO Stuart Goodall, says: “As the UK prepares to leave the European Union in March 2019, we see a real opportunity to make positive changes to the future of support for farming and the countryside.

“We are encouraged by the views of Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove MP, in his speech on delivering a ‘Green Brexit’ in July. In particular we agree with him that ‘trees are not only a source of beauty and wonder, living evidence
of our investment for future generations, they are also a carbon sink, a way to manage flood risk and a habitat for precious species.’”

The statement lists six key points where the organisations are in agreement:

• The UK would benefit from more forests and woods. Tree planting targets should be clearly linked to the needs of the UK economy, helping to tackle climate change, enhancing biodiversity and providing places for recreation.

• Support for woodland creation and tree planting should be improved after Brexit. A new countryside ‘contract’ between farmers, landowners and society should include measures to increase woodland cover, and see more woodland managed sustainably.

• Tree planting needs to be environmentally and economically sustainable. Tree planting should take into account future needs of people, business and wildlife, including the need to mitigate flood risk and to protect and enhance existing habitats.

• Owners of existing woodland should be rewarded for the public benefits it delivers. In any future policy, owners who manage their woodland to the UK Forestry Standard should be rewarded for delivering a wide range of public benefits.

• Forestry in the UK needs to be more visible, better understood and encouraged: Forestry is a £2 billion business, supports 80,000 jobs – and has huge growth potential.

• Britain needs to use more timber in construction

Ross Murray, CLA President, said: “Our members recognise the value of tree planting and the enormous contribution it makes to our countryside. However, we need many more trees in the ground - and a way of rewarding those who plant them to recognise the many benefits they deliver.”

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: “I am very pleased to be able to launch this statement with these prestigious organisations. There is a lot of common ground here in terms of supporting and working with rural communities to plant more trees and to help create economically strong and environmentally robust rural areas.”

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of The Woodland Trust said: “All three organisations  recognise we need lots more trees in the UK. Planting is at a historic low and hopefully, initiatives like this will draw greater Government attention to the need to increase planting of all types of tree and to the benefits which follow from that for our environment, society and economy.”

Click here to read the joint statement for the future of forestry post-Brexit.