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The Living Woods Team

Nick Gibbs has decided to step down from his role running the magazine after 38 glorious issues. But don’t worry – the magazine will be back in 2016 with a wonderful new editor, so please check back in early in the new year when we will bring you lots more information about the exciting development you can expect from the upcoming spring issue. We look forward to hearing from you soon!


The petition run by 38Degrees, and pushed by folk like Save Our Woods, has very nearly reached 500,000. We are giving a free Living Woods sub to the 500,000th signer! Then we’ll give another every 100,000, until they reach 1million, when the fortunate campaigner will get a two-year subscription!

Don’t be fooled by the Government’s delay of forest sales today till after the consultation. This may well be a diversionary tactic to steer attention away from the critical Public Bodies Bill. We must stop them having the ability to sell our woods. The risks are too high and the benefits are negligible, indeed it’s likely to cost us all in may ways.

Visit http://www.38degrees.org.uk to sign the petition. Get your timing right and you could get a free Living Woods sub.

Forest Blueprint

We are devising a blueprint (or greenprint) on how public ownership of the public forest estate can be maximised once the fight against its sale has been won.

• Communities able to buy or lease local woodlands, but only if they proof ability to raise funds and manage the woods. It should be difficult to achieve, not easy.

• Creation of an experimental regional network of woodfuel supply, with investment in processing plants.

• Grants for planting more trees for woodfuel.

• Defined role of Forestry Commission in Heritage Forests so that trusts within those forests can officially take on more responsibilities in partnership.

• Objective for Forestry Commission to reduce imports of timber.

• Promotion of local sawmills and mobile sawmilling services.

• Restore more Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS), with the support of the public and help from Woodland Trust and those that support ancient woodlands. Currently too few people understand the concept.

• Use of public forests to run pioneer programmes, possibly even a National Forest Service, to engage disaffected young people.

• Continued use of public forests to experiment with trial tree crops, like eucalyptus, and seeds from warmer climates to prepare for climate change.

This is our first draft. If anyone has further ideas on how the Public Forest Estate can be used, do please comment.

Irish Independent

Many thanks to the Irish journalist, Joe Barry, for plugging Living Woods in the Farming section of the Irish Independent (www.independent.ie/farming/showing-the-woodland-way-2519398.html). We were wondering why we’ve had a flurry of subscriptions from Ireland the last couple of days.

Save Our Forests NGOs

I spoke with two of the most significant woodland-related conservation NGOs today (the Woodland Trust and Small Woods Association). Both have clear lines on the proposed sale of England’s public forest estate. The Woodland Trust supports the restoration of ancient woodland and the Small Woods promotes community ownership of local woodlands. Both are admirable approaches.

By not categorically coming out against the Government’s proposals, and by offering solutions to the aftermath, they can be used as pawns by the Government to add credibility to case for disposal. Just that happened yesterday when David Cameron said the Woodland Trust would be able to manage woodlands better than the Forestry Commission. In almost all cases this is obviously false, and the Woodland Trust will agree that they are not in the position to manage those woods.

If there is a fear that a public campaign to stop the proposals will be perceived as shallow and limited to access and emotive issues, the Government may be able to say that the consultation responses are media-driven. We need the conservation NGOs to add some specialist weight to the debate. The more I talk to people the more I feel the proposals raise significant risks for very very little likely gain. The Government are playing divide and rule with the NGOs, and we should be wary of this.

SaveOurForests debate

The Government may have won the vote tonight on the Labour amendment to the Public Bodies Bill, but the campaign to stop the sell off of English forests is getting stronger. The strength of the Coalition MPs’ arguments weren’t that impressive, though Caroline Spelman gave a stirling performance.


The trouble is nobody trusts them, and eveyone knows that once the forests are sold off there will be no redress. It’s one thing OfAir complaining about the price of oxygen, but the public knows that trees are a resource you can’t mess around with, and are far too valuable. We need a mixed tree economy/environment that balances NGO, state, long-term estate, and investment ownership.

Politics Show 2nd Feb

It was great the Politics Show visited Wilderness Woods in East Sussex to show an example of private enterprise providing a fantastic approach to woodland management. It must be remembered, however, that theirs is an extremely rare situation in that the woods are located in the heart of very affluent commuter belt. Over the last 30-odd years they have built up a successful enterprise through excellent iniativies like bushcraft birthday parties, selling woodland products and renting out Christmas trees.

However this is not possible everywhere. In fact there are very few places that offer the range of socio-demographic factors Wilderness Woods enjoy. We should not assume this can be done everywhere, and there are plenty of similar woodland enterprises scraping by elsewhere in the country that would endorse this view.

Forest Sell-Off Update

The Save Our Forests group are going to London tomorrow to talk to Lords about the possible sell-off of England’s forests and woodlands. Good luck to them.

We have spoken to lots of folk from all sides in this debate. For some groups the sell-off is attractive, and some trees and woods might benefit, but the sustainability depends on a long view. We’re not convinced the market can be trusted with such long-term planning, nor that charities have the resources to manage woodlands and provide the sort of access and inclusivity that the Forestry Commission currently offers.

Jeremy Vine is featuring a phone-on about the potential sell-off of our forests today on Radio 2. Though there may be an argument for some woods to be sold as community woodlands, and possibly others for commercial use. However Living Woods has some key concerns.

1. That the Forestry Commission is undermined in any way. It is responsible for a huge number of initiatives that benefit people and wildlife that could be at risk if their assets are sold. The loss of assets could put the future of the agency at risk: baby and bathwater!!!

2. We desperately need an agency to guide woodland creation and management long into the future, to produce timber, fuel and space for amenity for an urbanised society. It is difficult to imagine the private sector and the market meeting those needs.

3. Just because the FC was created to fulfill a brief after WW1 that proved to be inappropriate to modern times, with cheap imports of softwood, doesn’t mean it has failed and that the market would be better. There are plenty of poorly-managed private woodlands. Some of the best private woodlands have thrived because they are part of huge estates, with the benefits of semi-feudal tenure that guarantees a long-term view through inheritance. The Forestry Commission is possibly the best alternative to that.