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RFS joins appeal to Environment Secretary
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RFS Director of Development Simon Lloyd says: “Any attempts to merge Forest Services, the FC arm working with the private sector, with other bodies would dilute the voice of forestry in England."

Date Issued: 03 April 2013


The RFS is one of 13 signatories to a letter to Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, calling on him not to merge Forestry Commission England with Natural England or the Environment Agency. The signatories to the appeal come from across the industry, as well as environmental, access and campaigning organisations, representing a wide spectrum of stakeholders. They are united in one common interest, which is to protect and promote the future welfare of England’s trees, woods and forests and those who rely on them.

The letter, which has been published in the Daily Telegraph (3 April 2013), and is available below, stresses the importance of retaining a body, Forestry Commission England, that can focus on the threats to, and opportunities from, forestry, not least pests and disease. The letter also notes that FC England has evolved in recent years to become less regulatory and more of an enabling partner, working with the private and third sectors, and that this evolution should continue.

The signatories point out that, while the future path of the public forest estate is clearly described, there is uncertainty over the future of the remaining element, normally referred to as Forest Services, saying:

“We look to the Commission as a partner in the new forest policy for England and the recently announced Grown in Britain initiative that aims to reconnect people with woodlands and the wood products they produce, helping develop a low carbon economy.”

RFS Director of Development Simon Lloyd says: “Any attempts to merge Forest Services, the FC arm working with the private sector, with other bodies would dilute the voice of forestry in England. It is the exact opposite to what is needed and would undermine delivery of the Independent Panel on Forestry’s ambitions from the start.

“Along with many organisations, we fear that the mergers which created Natural Resources Wales will be detrimental for forestry there, and we would urge the Government not to go down the same lines in England.

“We are not against change to make better use of existing resources, but we are looking for a strengthened Forestry Commission, not a weakened one. Many of the FC’s woodland advisers are professional foresters and have worked as practical managers during their career. Woodland Managers really value working with people with a practical understanding of the challenges they face – it is something that should be fostered by Government.”

The appeal was co-ordinated by Confor and The Woodland Trust. Confor has communicated its opposition to a merger to the UK Government on a number of occasions, but is still concerned that a decision to merge may be made.

“Any financial savings from a merger are likely to be tiny at best and will be accompanied by upheaval at a time when we need FCE working with us on tackling pests and diseases, promoting woodland management and planting and driving forward the Grown in Britain initiative. In a merged body, professional forestry expertise would be lost over time and our sector would be regulated by people who have no affinity with or knowledge of forestry”, explained Confor’s Stuart Goodall.

Sue Holden, chief executive of The Woodland Trust, said: “We need a strong voice for forests to help lead the way towards a woodland culture in England. Trees, woods and forests need a dedicated body to promote their unique role in delivering a healthier society, economy and environment.”



Letter to Telegraph pdf (click to download)

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