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Proposed Government sell-off of Forests

Well, we now have a better idea of the Governmentís intentions for the sell-off of the Forestry Commission forests/woodland. Or do we? ĎHeritage forestsí like the New Forest would not be sold off but handed to conservation charities. Just as well, because there would be blood if they tried to sell these. Only problem is, the charities are wondering how they can afford it. Commercially valuable forests would be leased under 150-year contracts. Communities, civil societies and local authorities would also be given the right to buy or lease forests. Like these have overflowing pots of gold to do this!

Kielder Forest is an example of a Ďcommercialí forest, Englandís largest forest and timber producer, but, and itís a big BUT, it is also home to 70% of the UK red squirrels, as well as otters, ospreys and goshawks. Itís not quite so clear-cut, is it, selling off Ďboringí commercial forests? A case of biodiversity at work in a forest, but the government sees it merely as a cash crop.

In Ireland the government also wants to sell the national forestry board. Interest has been expressed by a Swiss finance company, and the China Investment Corporation. China cannot get hold of enough land anywhere at the moment. No prizes for guessing the outcome of the Irish forests.

The Forestry Commission is safe for the moment, and has done valuable conservation work, engaging with the publicís interests. But there are some plans afoot which could see the Commission on shaky ground through the proposed Public Bodies Bill, by which the government will seek to control nearly 200 public bodies which they can then abolish if they so wish.

If you feel like many do, that our forests which are in public ownership, should stay that way, that to sell them off, for what is a drop in the ocean of our financial deficit, is so short-sighted as to be madness, if you are concerned about the decreasing biodiversity in our country, that they act as a carbon sink, that our future generations will not be able to enjoy the magic of woodlands, that we will demote ourselves from the least wooded country in Europe to the country with virtually no woodlands, and that they are irreplaceable, then take action. A House of Commons debate is scheduled on The Public Forest Estates in England for Wed 2 Feb. If you think we cannot trust the government when they say Englandís forests will be safe in private hands, do something about it NOW.

Read the proposals:

From the DEFRA website.

Sign petitions:

www.38degrees.org.uk or write to: 38 Degrees, 8 Angel Gate, City Road, London, EC1V 2SJ.
Concerning ancient woods www.woodlandtrust.org.uk .

Or write to:

Caroline Spelman, Environment Minister, House of Commons, London,SW1A 0AA. Tel. 020 7219 4189 Fax. 020 7219 0378 E-mail: caroline@carolinespelman.com .
Prime Minister David Cameron, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA. Fax: 020 7925 0918
MP for Earley John Redwood
Nick Clegg
Ed Miliband
Mary Creagh , Shadow Environment Minister

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