UK Forests still under threat

What follows is from a flyer distributed by  Keep Our Forests Public & Action For Access. It outlines the need for continued campaigning if we want to avoid what could turn into piecemeal privatisation as jobs & funds are cut. We didn’t write this but we share its sentiments & are posting it here in order to publicise both the events mentioned  & the issues raised. There are email contact addresses included below if you would like further information.

THE FOREST SELL-OFF

The privatization of the entire Forestry Commission estate has been cancelled, and the legal powers for this massive disposal – 2% of England – have been dropped from the Public Bodies Bill.

A BATTLE WON, OUR PUBLIC FORESTS ARE STILL UNDER THREAT

The Forestry Commission must still go ahead with shedding about 40% of their English employee’s jobs. That means all the forest management plans will be in chaos. The Forest Research part of the Commission – doing crucial work to tackle plant disease, monitor climate change and promote timber productivity – faces 25 % cuts. East Sussex forests could be run from Thetford, Suffolk, and their already bare-bones staff of five slashed.

The Commission may have to sell 15% of the estate, if the government demands it. Their DEFRA grant will still be slashed…and the panel of experts appointed by the government to pontificate over the future of our forests will include representatives of the same conservation NGOs who failed to campaign against the privatization, and partially endorsed it, as well as forest industry reps. Both groups share a potential interest in cherry-picking our public forests.

WE HAVE ONE OF THE BEST NATIONAL FOREST SERVICES IN THE WORLD

It harvests trees 150% more efficiently than the private sector and produces 60% of our home-grown timber on only 18% of our woodland.  It cherishes a vast range of ancient woodlands, whilst planting new urban fringe and brownfield community forests.

The Forestry Commission’s South East Region – from the Chilterns to Kent – own or lease 98 woodlands, ranging from the old royal forest of Alice Holt, to Bedgebury National Pinetum, and large downland beech forests. Most of these woodlands are ancient, with carpets of bluebells and a rich wildlife. The Commission plan to restore all their ancient woodlands to their former glory.

ALL OF THESE WOODS REMAIN AT THREAT OF PIECEMEAL PRIVATISATION

The proposed privatisation of our national forests stirred public anger to boiling point. Opposition groups formed all across the country. The 38 Degrees on-line petition has over half a million signatures.

WE NEED TO KEEP THE CAMPAIGN GOING, we’re not out of the woods yet!

What we stand for:

1. A positive role for an expanded state national forest service and public forest estate in delivering a range of public benefits. No land sales. No job cuts. No funding cuts.

2. Opposition to all conservation NGO acquisitions of privatized FC land. We will seek the compliance of the NGOs with this boycott position.

3. If there is to be a public consultation we want it be grass roots-led. There should be representation from trade unions and grass roots forest defence organisations* on any government advisory panel, and its meetings should be in public. There should be no representation on any advisory panel for organizations who stand to benefit from Forestry Commission disposals.

4. We need democracy in the Commission’s management. There should be public and staff representation at district, regional, and national level in Forestry Commission decision-making.

*The local grassroots forest campaign groups from across the country have formed a network to work together.

Email for any more info – Keep-our-forests-public@live.co.uk

RALLY IN FRISTON FOREST SUNDAY  MARCH 20TH

Meet:   Exceat car park Friston Forest at 12 noon

Located off the Litlington Road, near the junction of A259, by the Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Centre.  Map reference: TV 518 995

Speakers: Forestry Commission trade unionist; Kate Ashbrook (Open Spaces Society);  Dave Bangs (Keep Our Forests Public).

The rally will be followed by a picnic together & 1.30pm guided forest walk with two stop-and-return points for those who do not want to make the whole ramble.

Maximum distance 6 miles.  Wear strong walking shoes, bring lunch & refreshments

BRING BANNERS AND PLACARDS, FRIENDS & FAMILY.

Transport: From Brighton  Bus 12/12A Station  10.38 or 10.53  – opp sea life centre 10.43or 10.58

Bus  13X Station 11.02   Sealifecentre  11.14

From Lewes – 10.28 train replacement bus to Seaford, 12bus.   Eastbourne -12 bus.

Car park £3.50 – please get in touch to offer lifts.

2 further walks with K.O.F. P. & Action for Access in support of the public forests estate: action4access@gmail.com

Saturday April 9th. St Leonards’s Forest, near Horsham

Saturday May 7th  “Access in Arlington”, Abbot’s Wood, north of Wilmington

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.” John Burroughs (1837-1921)

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