The UK looks to sell off what precious little forests remain…

November 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

 

Cardinham Woods in Cornwall are managed by the Forestry Commission. Photograph: Tremorvapix/Alamy

 

Across the whole of the UK, the Forestry Commission – the government department “responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain’s forests and woodlands” – owns or manages 814,000 hectares of woodland. But, according to reports last week, half of the commission’s properties in England could be put up for sale over the coming decade as part of the coalition government’s attempts to reduce the budget deficit. The commission could yet be a high-profile victim of the 30% cuts earmarked for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The environment secretary Caroline Spelman is expected to soon spell out plans to raise as much as £5bn from the sale. (Control of the commission’s assets in the other regions has been devolved.) “If confirmed, it would amount to the largest change of land ownership since the second world war and could, some claim, see previously protected woodlands make way for golf courses, housing developments and a wave of new Center Parcs-style resorts.” Reports the Guardian.

Undoubtedly selling off forests to private investors is probably one of the easiest ways to raise a quick £5bn in the UK as long as the government have a slick PR campaign prepared to convince people that the threat of deforestation is minimal. The loss of any further forest in the UK would be a great tragedy, considering what precious little remains on an island, which was once upon a time covered from top to bottom in forests. Though what concerns me the most about the UK heading in this direction is the message it sends out to the rest of the world. Here we are a country who as chopped down our trees in the process of development, yet we are telling other less developed countries around the world not to clear their forests for economic growth because they’re worth more to the world as a whole and we depend on them for our survival. It could be considered slightly contradictory for the UK government to be pledging to give millions of pounds to third world countries in order for them to stop their deforestation, meanwhile profiting from developing their own forests back home. It seems the message is “do as I say, not as I do!”

For people who would like to see a UK with an economically and socially prosperous future should begin to think about aligning our economic and environmental values more closely, instead of in oppostion to each other. Without a sustainable environment as the foundations of a ‘stable’ economy, eventually any economy and ultimately society will begin to collapse.

Take a small step to let the government know that you care about this issue by going to 38degrees.org.uk and sign their petition to ‘Save our forests’. They have just passed 50,000 signatures.

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