THE Independent Forestry Panel must ‘bust’ the Government myth about the Public Forest Estate and shout about the value of nature, according to Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
As the Forestry Panel launched its interim report last Thursday, the wildlife charity was looking to it to explain to the Government the true value of woodlands in the region and to ‘bust the myth’ that the Public Forest Estate is a financial a burden on the state.
Mike Pratt, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “If the Budget recognised the full range and scale of benefits our natural environment provided there would be no question of the Treasury pressing for forest sales, or reducing the investment it made in the Public Forest Estate.
“We have to bust this myth once and for all.”
The net annual cost to the Treasury of Forest Enterprise, the arm of Forestry Commission England that manages the PFE, is under £20million.
Yet the expenditure on just one of the road schemes announced last week in the Autumn Statement (A453 widening between Nottingham, the M1 and East Midlands Airport) is £160million.
The UK National Ecosystem Assessment report, which was issued in June, highlights the hidden value of nature, worth billions of pounds to the UK economy.
It estimates the value of social and environmental benefits of woodland in the UK alone as £1.2billion per annum.
Mike said: “The costs to society of not investing in our woods and forests as part of our natural environment and well-being far outweigh the comparatively small costs to the Treasury of doing so.
“These places provide substantial physical and mental health benefits, a natural means to counter flooding and important wildlife habitats.
“Just as we cannot be separated from nature, so forestry cannot be separated from the future of our natural environment as a whole.”
Mike added: “Many of us are deprived of the sights and sounds of nature in our day-to-day lives and opportunities to explore wildlife-rich places.
“Our woodlands must play their part in an equally rich network of other habitats such as gardens and parks, meadows, wetlands and moorland.
“And some places, dark pine plantations should be opened up to give way to more diverse and wildlife-rich habitat.
“Enhancing wildlife is not a luxury for our nation – it is an essential. Woodlands are just one part of a bigger picture: England’s nature.
“Taking the right approach to England’s public forest estate could help us to redress the vast declines in wildlife during the twentieth century.”