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Can’t see the wood for the trees? Consultation launched on selling off England’s public forests

28 January 2011

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman believes our woodlands can be ‘protected’ by selling off forests. She is backed by her Government who is expediting a change in legislation to ensure she has the power to transfer ownership out of Government hands.

The Government has already committed to taking 15% of the public forest estate out of state control over the course of this parliament (the largest amount allowable without new legislation); this consultation invites views on management options for the remaining 85% – with a view to generating £470m.

Is the justification that this revenue will better allow the Forestry Commission to focus on its role of responding to outbreaks of tree pests and diseases, regulating felling and (ironically) setting standards for sustainable forest management really going to wash with a public who is, in the vast majority, against the proposal?

A further justification is that the commission will no longer be the largest commercial operator in the sector it also regulates.

It seems the only value this proposal is currently looking to increase is purely financial.

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