Fair Play for Forestry - or Blatant Bias?

24 September 2018

The forestry sector must unite behind a positive vision of the future to grasp the unique opportunity presented by the re-shaping of rural policy and funding after Brexit.

UK Government plans for a new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM) to replace Common Agricultural Policy direct payments are at an early stage - and the time to influence future policy is now, a seminar at APG 2018 heard. 

Fair Play for Forestry discussed the prospect of a level playing-field as an ELM, which will reward land managers for delivering public goods, is designed. 

Paul Brannen, Labour MEP for North-east England and a strong advocate of tree planting and building with timber, said: “Most people are not aware of the multiple benefits of forestry. You have to marshal arguments, make them accessible to the public and show the benefits by planting forests in the urban fringe, within 30 minutes of everyone in a city or town.”  

He added: “The Fair Play for Forestry movement isn’t big enough at the moment but it could be. It’s a winnable campaign but we should re-calibrate towards blatant bias for forestry, because it can tackle the biggest single collective problem in the world, climate change. 

“Carbon capture and storage is hugely expensive and staring us in the face is the opportunity to take carbon dioxide from the air by planting far more trees. We should aim to double UK tree cover.” He said Brexit offered forestry a window “to get out there and win the argument”.   

Susan Twining of the CLA agreed: “The new ELM scheme won’t be fully developed until 2024. In the meantime, there will be a degree of economic pressure to allow businesses to take a long hard look at themselves. There is an opportunity for forestry to fill that gap.” 

Sue Pritchard, Director of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, agreed there was a ‘window of influence' for forestry. It was vital, she said, to look at forestry and woodland in a broad context: “It’s not just about the rural sectors, it’s joining up all the different policy conversations, to understand more about how we align public money and private investment to deliver public value.” 

John Tucker, Director of Woodland Creation for Woodland Trust, warned: “The sector can be too inward-looking. We need to grow up, come together and recognise the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and articulate better all the benefits that forestry offers.” 

Sir William Worsley, the new Tree Champion appointed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove at Confor’s suggestion, said: "It’s exciting and there are opportunities we’ve not had for a long time. All parts of the sector must move in the same direction.”