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Farron welcomes package of forestry announcements

January 31, 2013 1:37 PM

TF ruralCumbrian MP Tim Farron has today welcomed the news that a new, independent public body will hold the nation's publicly-owned forests in trust for future generations. Tim was one of the leaders of the campaign to stop the privatisation of the forests. Tim has hailed today announcements as a "package of measures to keep the forests in public hands".

Alongside the continuing work of the Forestry Commission, this new body will own, maintain and safeguard our forests on behalf of the public. The announcement formed part of the Government's response to the Independent Panel on Forestry's report on the future of trees and woodland.

The Government confirmed its support for the Panel's vision and has accepted many of its recommendations in full. The policy sets out an ambition to expand wooded areas, increase the amount of woodland being well managed, maintain and improve access to our public woodland and improve the economic performance of the forestry sector.

The policy published today also sets out how the Government is already giving a greater priority to tree health research, including an additional £1 million of funding announced in September 2012. In addition, the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Partnership will use £4 million of Defra funding, £0.5 million of additional Forestry Commission funding and up to £4 million additional funding from research councils to do in-depth research into tree diseases to inform the way outbreaks are handled in the future.

The government, after lobbying by Tim, has also increased the Forestry Commission's budget by £3.5m next year specifically to make up for lost income from sales of woodland and have also allocated them £2m to recognise additional pressures arising from Chalara and the importance of implementing the commitments in this response. Tim thinks that woodland has a key role to play in economic growth and he specifically welcomed the Government announcement that they will work closely with Dr Peter Bonfield, retailers and contractors to create jobs and increase the timber grown in Britain. The Government will also be helping woodlands to become more economically productive by:

• working with landowners to ensure that woodland is being managed sustainably to increase production whilst conserving wildlife;

• backing the new industry-led action plan being developed by the forestry sector to grow the domestic wood market

• working closely with a range of groups to encourage local people to get involved in managing their local woodlands.

Recognising that the public are passionate about their woodland, the Government is also encouraging people to get involved in an innovative scheme to help protect our trees.

The Open Air Laboratories survey on tree health, to be launched in May 2013, will give people the opportunity to take part in a major field examination of ash trees for pests and pathogens, including chalara. The Open Air Laboratories citizen science project is led by ImperialCollege and to date more than 600,000 people, 3,000 schools and 2,400 other organisations have taken part in its surveys.

Commenting, Tim said; "This is fantastic news for all of us in the South Lakes, and is worthy of celebration. Our forests are an essential part of our rural heritage and it is vital that we do all in our power to ensure that public access and the enormous diversity of wildlife is protected.

"I am extremely grateful that the Government has listened to the voice of the people, and recognised that we do not want to see forests like Grizedale being transferred into the hands of the highest bidders, all for the sake of a few pennies. This is a big win for the people of the South Lakes."

Forestry Minister David Heath MP added: "Tim was one of the most vocal champions of public forestry, so today I'm sure he welcomes today's announcement. The Government cannot and should not do this alone. The spirit of partnership forged by the panel and more recently during the outbreak of ash dieback must continue, not least because many of the panel's ambitions are wider challenges for the sector and society as a whole. People can play an important role in protecting and improving our woodland."