Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith has urged farmers and landowners to join a “colossal endeavour” to deliver a huge increase in tree planting in England, to meet targets and deliver a wide range of economic and environmental benefits.
The Forestry Minister was speaking at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry and Tree Planting, where he outlined his ambitions for the England Tree Strategy, launched recently.
The Tree Strategy reaffirms the Government’s target of 30,000 hectares of new woodland annually across the UK by 2025 against current planting of just under 13,500 hectares a year.
“It will require massive collaboration and a sense of shared ownership, not just from the forestry sector but businesses, local communities, farmers and landowners; all will have to join us in this colossal endeavour,” Lord Goldsmith said.
Part of this meant showing woodland creation was a “viable financial option” to farmers and landowners, he added. This meant we would need “more private investment to ramp up to the kind of place we need to get to and give support to the private sector to make land available for planting”. He also stressed that tree planting need not be delayed by the creation of the new ELM (Environmental Land Management) scheme. “People will not lose out if they go early,” he made clear.
Lord Goldsmith said the devolved administrations would be crucial to meeting the target. Scotland is currently planting 80 per cent of all new woods in the UK and Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake, Chair of the APPG on Forestry and Tree Planting, summarised the latest planting figures as: “Could do better, but Scotland top of the class”. Mr Lake reiterated the willingness of politicians across the UK to support new planting.
Lord Goldsmith said even with support from the devolved administrations, there would be a need for “an unprecedented increased in afforestation in England” to meet targets.
The UK also needed far more home-grown timber, he said, highlighting that we currently import 80 per cent of timber for wood products, second only to China in net imports.