Public Benefits

Forests provide a vast range of non-consumptives which we do not actually take out of the forest with us - that includes all types of recreational use, peace and quiet, a place to walk the dog, nature conservation experiences, and so forth. Woodlands and forests produce benefits to the whole of society not just to individuals. The non-timber benefits of woodlands are broadly divided into:-

  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Economic

Environmental - In urban areas, trees can improve or green derelict land and urban landscapes, reduce air pollution, provide new wildlife habitat and reduce flooding spates. Social - By providing pleasant surroundings, trees can improve the physical, mental and community health. They also reduce wind speed and solar radiation. Economic - Increasing tree cover in and around urban areas can enhance property values and encourage inward investment by removing or covering eyesores and creating a general feeling of well-being and regeneration. In England & Wales, the demand for public recreation in the countryside is likely to be heightened by the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act, which includes among its provisions a 'right to roam' by foot on mountain, moor, heath and common land. Woodland is specifically excluded from this right. The England Forestry Strategy, published in 1998, sets out the programmes and priorities for the Government's support for forestry. It recognises that forestry provides particular benefit to society in four major areas:

  • Rural Development

Many remote rural communities are undergoing change and decline, as some traditional jobs vanish, and services (shops, health) become more distant. This focuses attention on potential new opportunities of which rural development forestry is one. The countryside is moving from being simply a centre of production to being more significant as a centre of consumption. The demand for rural recreation and tourism is large and continuing to grow.

  • Economic Regeneration

Managing woods and expanding them provides employment on and off-site. Increasing tree cover in and around urban areas can enhance property values and encourage inward investment by removing or covering eyesores and creating a general feeling of well-being and regeneration.

  • Recreation, Access & Tourism

Tourism and recreation are major economic generators in the UK countryside. Rural tourism is major economic activity, with nearly 1500 million visits to the countryside p.a., contributing some £7.6 m to the economy. The recent Foot and Mouth epidemic has brought home to the pubic and politicians the importance of this industry to rural communities, and in particular the number of jobs associated with it. There are around 350 million day visits to woodland p.a., and this is one of the cheapest leisure activities (average spend of £3.15 per visit).

  • Environment and Conservation

Their role in ameliorating greenhouse gases and global warming as carbon sinks is widely promoted. Woodlands ameliorate the climate both locally and across large distances, pump out oxygen into the atmosphere, filter out a lot of atmospheric pollution, prevent soil erosion, etc. More:

  • For. Comm. Research Paper 07. Social Science in forestry. Sue Weldon (2004).
  • For. Comm. Research Paper 01. Health and well-being: trees, woodlands and natural spaces. Elizabeth O'Brien (2003).