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Seeing the wood for the trees

Seeing the wood for the trees

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Published by Julian Dobson
Why the UK government's review of forestry matters - and why we need forests that support community, commerce and climate.
Why the UK government's review of forestry matters - and why we need forests that support community, commerce and climate.

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Published by: Julian Dobson on Jun 20, 2011
Copyright:Attribution No Derivatives


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Seeing the wood for the trees:
The forestry review and why it matters
A bf b Th M Ft
The Mersey Forest Partnership welcomes theGovernment’s decision to review forestry policyin England. England’s forests play a vital rolein our national wellbeing and prosperity butare threatened by a combination of intenseeconomic and environmental pressures.If we want to continue to reap the benetsfrom this crucial resource, we need a wideranging debate about the options for forests’management and funding. This debate needs to focus on how we can increase the amountof woodland, protect what we have andmaximise its public benets.This contribution to the debate considers thefuture of forests
under three headings:
Forestry for community
Forestry for commerce
Forestry for climateOn page 8 we set out nine key questions for the future.
Reproduction from the Ordnance Survey mapping with permission of Her Majesty’s Stationery Ofce © Crown Copyright.Unauthorised reproduction infringes the Crown Copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. TMF Licence No.100031461.
Figure 1: The extent of The Mersey Forest
We dene ‘forests’ to include urban trees, communitywoodland, recreational forest parks and commercialforestry.
Who we are
The Mersey Forest is a network of trees andwoodlands being created across Merseysideand Cheshire. It was set up in 1991 andlaunched in 1994 as the largest memberof the national network of 12 CommunityForests. It covers 465 square miles of Merseyside and North Cheshire, and 1.7m
people live within its boundary [
gure 1
].The Mersey Forest’s 30-year plan sets a targetof planting 8,000 hectares of new woodlands,scattered across what is developing as a well-wooded landscape, linked to other habitats,providing an attractive setting for businessand a high quality of life and place.
Our work 
The work of The Mersey Forest highlights themany social, economic and environmentalbenets that can accrue from well- managedwoodland. These benets are highly valued by the people of Merseyside and North Cheshireand The Mersey Forest has a strong reputationfor community engagement
. In a recentsurvey, two thirds of respondents said theirenvironment had improved as a result of TheMersey Forest’s work.
Five key facts
Through community and partnershipworking, The Mersey Forest has plantedmore than 8m trees. 
Since 1994, more than 70% of thewoodlands in The Mersey Forest have beenbrought into management to secure theirlong-term future.
For every £1 invested in The Mersey Forest, £8 of value is generated, thanks to the waywe maximise our funding.
 £40 million of external funds have beenwon by the partnership to help create newwoodlands with local communities.
60% of people living in The Mersey Forest
See, for example,
A unique opportunity:
the reason for this brieng 
The importance of forests to the British publicwas thrown into sharp focus this year when thousands of people rose in opposition toGovernment plans to transfer large swathesof Forestry Commission land to alternativeownership and management.As a result, the Government has launched awide-ranging review of forestry policy, whichwe welcome. This arrives at a time when publicnances are under strain, environmental policyis under review and climate change is having an increasing impact.Our concern is that in many forums, thedebate has been reduced to a ‘public good/private bad’ binary that reduces the chance of maximising the potential benets of effectivelymanaged woodland. The different ways of managing forests should be explored activelyand with an open mind.In addition, public discussion of the benetsof woodland has tended to focus aroundbiodiversity and access. These issues arevital, but are not the full story. This brieng isintended as a contribution to a wider debateand as a starting point for a Mersey ForestPartnership response to the national review.
Key message one:
forestry for community 
Recent events have made clear that thepublic strongly believes woodland shouldbe managed in the public interest. Meeting  this expectation will require investment, butour research suggests that this will bring high returns in terms of economic and socialbenet.For example, research by Regeneris Consulting on activity undertaken by The MerseyForest, funded through the EU Objective Oneprogramme, found that every pound investedby the programme will generate, over thelifetime of the investment, an estimated £10.20 in social cost savings, wellbeing benets and gross value added.
Some of our latest research, carried out byVision Twentyone
, demonstrates how highly the public value well-managed, accessiblewoodlands within easy reach of urban areas.This research found that 86% of people in the Merseyside and North Cheshire area hadvisited woodlands created through the MerseyForest programme. Since 2006, when previousresearch was conducted, the number of visitors has increased in nearly all cases.These woodlands – many created on derelictformer industrial sites – have become popularand well used. Nearly all visitors use theMersey Forest woodlands to take some form of exercise, and 39% arrive on foot.Our work has demonstrated that as well asbeing popular with local people, high quality,accessible woodland can have a positiveimpact on several areas of major Governmentconcern.use their local woodlands – with nearly20% visiting at least once a week.

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