We are so much more than timber, forestry, woodlands and trees

Date Issued: 09 May 2012
FC Chair Pam Warhurst: Working together to tell the story that we are so much more than timber, forestry, woodlands and trees

“We are so much more than timber, forestry, woodlands and trees” – so Pam Warhurst, Chair of the Forestry Commission, summed up the mood of the RFS NDG James Memorial Event conference with her own clarion call.

She told the conference: “There has never been a time when forestry, woodlands and individual trees have been higher up the agenda.

“We have a brilliant model in which commercial opportunities underpin social and environmental benefits, but this model alone is not enough to provide all the potential benefits that trees, woods and forests could provide.

“As a society we should be looking at how we pay for many of the products and benefits that trees, woods and forests provide, and from which we all benefit. We must ask why it is that as a society we choose to pay public money for some things, but we completely ignore other things.

“And we who manage trees, woods and forests must start thinking creatively about what we are prepared to see in woodlands, and be prepared to be more creative in the portfolio of woods we manage, to help provide these benefits to wider society.

“So I welcome the fact that, as a sector, we are starting to work together across the conservation and commercial interests to tell the story that we are about so much more than just timber, forestry, woodlands and trees.”

The conference was held with the Royal Agricultural Society of England at Stoneleigh on 23 April 2012, and put Valuing and Adding Value to Trees and Woodland in the spotlight.

RFS President Nick Halsey opened the conference with a quote from Shakespeare’s Brutus in Julius Caesar – a message that resonated from speaker to speaker.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune...
...And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

Speakers from across forestry and the wood chain looked at traditional valuations; at the popularity of woodlands for sale; escalating demands for woodfuel; increasing timber prices; differing valuation methods; the Woodland Carbon Code and at ecosystem services such as carbon capture and sequestration, health and wellbeing, flood alleviation, landscape and biodiversity. Their presentations, summarised below, are available in full on the RASE website.

  • Dr Nick Brown, Senior Lecturer, Plant Sciences Oxford University and Principal of Linacre College, spelling out three reasons for changing how the industry values itself – as a means to increase values for owners and society at large; to prevent decline in our woodlands and to protect woodland against land use competition such as agriculture and housing.
  • Mike Townsend, Senior Advisor from Woodland Trust, calling for a greater focus on small groups of trees, and woodland belts and more community-led involvement; for the industry to be open to change and to take up the challenge of embedding valuing methods within decision making processes – with Ecosystem services as one way to ensure that happens.
  • John Clegg, from John Clegg & Co, looking at traditional woodland valuations, at regional variations and at customer expectations valuing woodlands for the satisfaction they gain rather than its ability to provide cash flow.
  • John Farquhar, Rural Development Initiatives, outlining the complex calculations that go into understanding the carbon balance within managed or unmanaged woodlands.
  • Angus Heaton from woodlands.co.uk, talking about how family woodlands are valued – a concept rooted in his own childhood.
  • Pat Snowdon, Forestry Commission Chief Economist, discussing ecosystem assessment and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment methods that focus on supply services, regulation services , cultural and provisioning factors, and outlining some of the difficulties in measuring non priced values like health and wellbeing.
  • Tom Nisbet, hydrologist from Forest Research, Alice Holt, demonstrating how a planning project in the Vale of Pickering is part of a flood alleviation scheme for the River Ouse catchment areas.
  • Sophie Churchill, National Forest Company, explaining how health and wellbeing values are as important as the landscape value of the National Forest, and of her hopes that it brings benefit to those who have a diminished quality of life, feeding though those benefits to society.
  • Simon Richmond, Technical Officer for the Arboricultural Association, weighing up four different valuation systems currently used in the UK and in the USA and how they can result in astonishingly wide variations of value on the same tree or small woodland area.
  • Joanne Yarrow’s account of the Wilderness Wood family business she has taken over from her parents, revealing how engaged local communities and wider audiences can become in all aspects of a woodland – from its management to its edible and non-edible products.
  • Richard Jinks, Forest Research, Alice Holt, looking into the future at trials being carried out at 37 sites across Western Europe, from the Azores to Scotland, into the performance of three provinces of the same 30 species to see how they perform under different climatic conditions, to help the industry adapt to climate change.
  • James Hepburne Scott from Forest Carbon, explaining their role as a ‘dating agency’ between the buyers and sellers of verified carbon units under the Woodland Carbon Code, and the checks and balances that enable verification of new plantings to balance emissions.
  • Mike Seville, Woodland Advisor, CLA, considering whether non-market benefits could be turned into cash values; warning that while the price of timber has been improving, it is not enough and that ways must be found to turn around the situation where new woodlands benefit society at large but do not financially reward the landowners who fund them.
  • Jonathan Hanson, Savills, taking heart from the fact that over a 20-year timeframe forests have proved a good investment. With woodfuel/chip prices increasing, and in an era of economic turbulence, it is one industry where demand for product is set to soar with the opening of new biomass power stations likely to mean demand will far outstrip supply of product in the UK.