Progress report on future of England’s forests published today

A PANEL set up in the wake of a fierce debate over the future of England’s woods and forests publishes a progress report today as its seeks “a wider range of benefits for more people” from them.

The Independent Panel on Forestry, was set up to advise the Government on the future of England’s forests, following a Coalition u-turn on privatisation plans for Forestry Commission land.

The panel says it is working towards recommendations that will increase the benefits generated from all forests in England, including to the people that enjoy them, to nature and to the businesses that rely on them.

The recommendations will be made in their final report to Government next spring, following a visit to East Anglia in March.

The Right Reverend James Jones Bishop of Liverpool, who chairs the panel, said: “Although our panel was born out of fierce debate over the future of the public forest estate, what has become apparent through our work so far is that we must look at the future of all woods and forests, not just the one fifth managed by the Forestry Commission.

“Through the 42,000 responses to our call for views, the public expressed their passion for forests as a place of recreation, to connect with nature and as a vital source of resources. These responses, along with the many people we have met on our visits, have helped inform our report.”

The report notes that while looking over a landscape of different types and ages of trees in the Forest of Dean, the panel were told this was “a political landscape” shaped by the national politics at the time of planting. The panel has identified in their progress report that future forestry policy should reflect the economic and ecological timescales of woodlands.

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The panel sees a continuing role for a national public forest estate in England. The panel sets out a broad vision of providing a wider range of benefits to more people, and will explore the role of not just the public forest estate but all woodlands, including those in other ownerships, in delivering more for society, the environment and the economy.

Bishop James said: “For now, all of our work, especially in relation to the woods and forests outside of the public forest estate, needs further development in the run up to making recommendations in our final report next year. But as ever, the panel are dedicated to further exploring these emerging themes.”

The panel’s progress report will be available to view in full at