Forestry and the land use debate

posted on April 26, 2009

Sylva staff enjoyed attending the Institute of Chartered Foresters’ national conference in Cardiff last week on the topic of land use and forestry.

Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery gave a presentation to the 130 delegates on Future-proof woodland design and management, questioning recent ‘blind-alley’ policies and ‘lowest common denominators’ in decision making.  He offered ‘nativeness’ as an example of a lowest common denominator where woodland policies have often advocated only native and failed to support additional dimensions such as providing quality timber, being healthy, having genetic variation or even being future-proof.

just 2% of England’s land area is woodland in private ownership and managed according to known standards

Dr Hemery also graphically demonstrated the current ‘moribund’ state of England’s woodlands.  He asked all 130 delegates to stand and then explained that each person represented 1% of England’s land area (130,000 ha each).  Thanks to some cleverly distributed stickers, he then managed to get everyone except nine delegates to sit; those left standing represented the 9% woodland cover in England.  However, some harsh statistics were graphically demonstrated when he revealed that in fact more than half (627,000 ha) of the woodlands in England are not associated in anyway with the Forestry Commission (via grants and licensing etc) and therefore unquantified.  So, five people had to sit leaving just four.  These four people represented the 4% of land area in England that are woodlands managed to a known standard.  Dr Hemery then revealed that half of the known woodland resource (2%) was the public estate managed by the Forestry Commission.  After two more people  sat down, just two people in a room of 130 delegates were left standing.  This strongly illustrated the quite shocking statistic that just 2% of England’s land area is woodland in private ownership and managed according to known standards.

During the two day conference, many interesting ideas and information came forward from the presentations, question and answer sessions, and the main debate.  There were perhaps not many answers forthcoming but no-one present could claim to have a crystal ball when considering the future. The  Sylva Foundation will be producing proceedings for the conference, which will be available on our think-tank website:  www.ForestryHorizons.eu .


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