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Farron hails win for forestry campaigners!

July 4, 2012 9:53 AM

Rural TFCumbrian MP Tim Farron has today hailed the report from the Independent Panel on Forestry that states that Government should not sell off large swathes of publically owned forest, as a huge win for campaigners that have fought tirelessly for over a year.

The Panel, led by Rt Rev James Jones (Bishop of Liverpool), was set up in spring 2011 to decide the future of Government-owned forests following public outcry over the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' plans to privatise Britain's woodlands. The panel was set up after campaigners including Tim protested against privatisation plans.

Following a yearlong inquiry, the Panel published its report this morning, which calls on the Government to develop a 'Woodland culture for the 21st century', which should ensure ready access to trees and woodlands, an expansion of woodland coverage from 10-15% of England's land area by 2060 and protecting Forests in public ownership by defining in statute as land held in trust for the nation.

The public forest estate costs about £20 million a year to the taxpayer but delivers many times that in benefits to people's health, recreation, tourism and natural services according to the RSPB who published a report into the value of Britain's woodlands last weekend.

Last year, ministers launched a bid to transfer ownership of public forests, currently managed by the Forestry Commission, to businesses and charities. But a huge public outcry from the RSPB, 38 Degrees and local organisations like the Wainwright Society and Save Lakeland Forests and forced the Government into a U-turn on the plans, which also suggested communities could buy the woodlands they currently enjoy for free.

Tim has been pressing for a quick announcement over the future of publically own forests following a week of rumours from which suggested that the Government were intending to try to secretly sell of forest land without informing the public.

Commenting, Tim said: "This is a big day for everyone who has fought so hard to protect the future of our forests and ensure that access, biodiversity, sources of timber and carbon absorption are not threatened by a sell off. The Independent Panel's decision is welcome news and I am delighted that the Government is going to listen to their recommendations and ensure that forests such as Grizedale and Whinlatter in Cumbria which are such huge assets both locally and nationally, remain in public hands!"