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MP calls on forestry campaigners to make their voice heard

October 25, 2012 9:31 AM

TF ruralSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has asked Grizedale and Whinlatter forestry campaigners to get involved and help steer DEFRA's response to the Independent Forestry Panel's report.

The Independent Forestry 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. DEFRA is now working on its reply to the independent review.

As part of that reply DEFRA want to hear local people's and have set up a questionnaire which can be found here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/forestry/survey/

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 Tim, 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. Over a thousand people attended the 'Save Lakeland Forests' rally in Grizedale, joining Tim and Lord Clark of Windermere.

Following a year long inquiry, the panel published its report in July, which called on the Government to develop a 'Woodland Culture for the 21st century'. This would ensure ready access to trees and woodlands, an expansion of woodland coverage from 10-15% of England's land area by 2060 and protection for 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 a report published by the RSPB.

Tim said: "The Independent Panel's report is a fantastic document and needs to be accepted lock, stock and barrel. To make sure this happens and ensure that forests such as Grizedale and Whinlatter, remain in public hands, we need everyone to help steer DEFRAs formal reply - please fill in the survey and help make the difference!"