Right trees in the right place for the right reasons

Trees are finally getting the right sort of attention from the Welsh Government, says CLA Cymru, following the Trees & Timber Task Force recommendations
New forest: freshly planted mixed broadleaf saplings on a site in mid-Wales

Recommendations from the Welsh Government’s Trees and Timber Task Force represent a welcome step forward: but they raise further important questions about how we support forestry and woodland in the future, says CLA Cymru.

“The real value of forestry and woodland is revealed in this report. It also demonstrates the complexities in the subject. It tells us that the Welsh Government hears the message that it needs to apply greater subtlety to delivering a wide range of benefits in diverse contexts: moving forward from the message: ‘plant more trees,’ to planting the right species in the right place for the right reasons,” says Graham Clark, CLA Cymru Forestry and Woodland Advisor.

The recommendations have been published this week, by the Welsh Government, following the call-to-arms to ‘plant more trees’ in a statement from Lee Waters, the Deputy Climate Change Minister. In it, he acknowledged that Wales needs to see 43,000 hectares of new woodland planted by 2030, and 180,000 hectares by 2050 - to meet the ‘balanced pathway’ set out by the UK Climate Change Committee. This - the Deputy Minister explained - is equivalent to planting at least 5,000 hectares per year. Last year, just 290 hectares of woodland was planted in Wales and annual woodland creation has not exceeded 2,000 hectares since 1975.

Graham Clark continues, “Clearly meeting such ambitious targets is a tall order. This week’s announcements and the launch of the new Woodland Investment Grant are definitely steps in the right direction. But, the long term solution lies in making woodland creation easier to achieve and a more attractive land use option for landowners. In particular, clarity is needed on how growing trees will fit into our future Sustainable Land Management scheme ensuring forestry and woodland management is fully part of a national plan which is meeting Government objectives and which is viable for farmers and land managers.”

“This report’s brought many industry experts together and is making a timely intervention in, to delivery against society’s multiple sustainable goals: the economy, the environment, bio-conservation and public health and wellbeing – Wales’ Future Generations goals. A lack of clarity about how valued social benefits translate into economic viability has restrained tree planting in the recent past. Our unique opportunity to take full control over and re-focus how we support Welsh land management is allows us to achieve a dramatic positive change in how we treat forestry and woodland.”

“A diversity of approaches to woodland creation and management objectives should all have a place so that rural land can provide the products and benefits that Wales will need in the future, from quality timber products, energy-generation, carbon and water management bio-conservation or societal landscape benefits.”

Graham continues, “From this welcome foundation, going forward the Welsh government needs to develop an attractive and accessible land management scheme for the long-term which properly rewards tree-planting to provide these benefits and which does not disadvantage those who make what is an irreversible choice to create woodland – compared with other forms of land-use.”