Thursday, 21 December 2017

The future of our woodland could be in doubt as we fail to plant enough trees > The UK has one of the lowest levels of tree cover in Europe.

Last night's exploration of the wonderful world which trees inhabit
Futures Forum: A passion for trees @ BBC One: Wednesday 20th December

... was a charming hour through the seasons:
Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees is definitely the best thing you’ll watch this Christmas - New Statesman
Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees review – from woodland stethoscopes to Shakespeare’s sonnets | Television & radio | The Guardian

Shot over the course of a year, this enchanting documentary followed the effect of the changing seasons on Dench’s leafy haven at her home in Surrey – which is Britain’s most wooded county.

Dame Judi Dench branches out in the gentle documentary My Passion for Trees: review

And Dame Judi is clearly helping to increase the woodland canopy in the county:
Dame Judi Dench unveils the reasons for her love of trees in new documentary | Life | Life & Style | Express.co.uk

Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not reflected elsewhere in the country, with a piece from the Telegraph from earlier in the year:

England plants so few trees that the entire year's planting could have been done by three people

Woods at Lucy Hill in the New Forest, Hampshire CREDIT: IAN G DAGNALL/ALAMY

Olivia Rudgard, social affairs correspondent 15 MAY 2017

England's green and pleasant land is known for its great forests, from Sherwood to the Forest of Dean.

But the future of the country's woodland could be in doubt.

According to new figures, so few trees were planted last year that just three people could have easily done the job. Forestry Commission figures show that just 582 hectares of trees were planted in 2016 - the lowest number since records began in 1976. By contrast almost 2,700 hectares were planted in 2013/14.

According to industry figures, a professional planter can plant 1,000 trees each day. This means that three people, working full-time, could have planted the 887,000 trees which were planted over the course of the year.

Figures fell to a new low in the final part of last year, when just 34,000 trees were planted - making it the poorest quarter in six years. The trend has continued into this year, with just 63,000 trees planted between January and March 2017.

The figures mean that a Government pledge that 12 per cent level of woodland cover should be reached by 2060 is looking increasingly remote. Currently 10 per cent of England is woodland. Trees would need to be planted at around 10 times the current rate, or around 5,000 hectares a year, for the Government to hit this target. It also pledged that 11 million trees would be planted in England by 2020 - but the figures show that just 1.4m trees have been planted since the last general election.

In March a damning report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee criticised the current regulation of forests as “not fit for purpose” and said it needed significant overhaul if the Government were to reach its targets.

However, Thérèse Coffey a minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said she was "confident" the Government would "easily" fulfil the pledge.

Landowners who wish to plant a forest must negotiate a "complex and bureaucratic" system in order to obtain a Government grant, the report said.

Three agencies, the Forestry Commission, Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency administer the main grant available, the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Stuart Goodall, chief executive of Confor, which represents the forestry industry, said: "The proof of policy failure is the disastrous year for tree planting in 2016 - the worst on record. 2017 looks little better and we face a real prospect of deforestation – something we associate with the Amazon, not England."  The group is pushing for the Forestry Commission to take on sole responsibility for approving the grants, which are designed to incentivise the planting of forests.

Witnesses told the committee that the application process was “tortuous”,“bureaucratic”,“ overly complex” and “not fit for purpose”.

A Conservative spokesman said: "Woodland cover in England is at its highest level since the 14th Century and between 2010 and 2015 we planted 11 million trees, including one million trees in urban areas. We are proud of our work increasing tree cover even further and last November we opened the £19 million Woodland Carbon Fund to encourage more large scale planting."

The figures come as concerns are raised about tree-felling by officials because of health and safety. In January residents of the area near the Boconnoc Estate, Cornwall, complained that a mile-long stretch of beech trees had been cut down amid concerns about branches falling in the path of passing drivers. Officials on the estate said Highways England had asked them to cut back the woodland because it was a danger to motorists on the nearby A38. And last month locals protested after 20 trees planted in 1919 to commemorate victims of the First World War were earmarked for removal by Sheffield City Council amid concerns about their overgrown roots.

According to Confor, the UK is the third-largest net importer of timber in the world, after China and Japan. Just 13 per cent of the UK's land is covered with trees, one of the lowest levels in Europe.

England plants so few trees that the entire year's planting could have been done by three people - Telegraph

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