Bishop issues plea for sustainable forests policy

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The Bishop of Liverpool has issued a plea for the government to pursue a sustainable policy on forests.

Leading a debate on 27 February 2013, the Right Reverend James Jones said that when the government announced plans to sell sections of forest, "people discovered a passion for trees they never knew they had".

He acknowledged that in welcoming the Independent Panel on Forestry's 2012 report the government had "responded constructively to mood of the nation" and reminded the House: "Trees are good for nature, good for people and good for the economy."

The panel, chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, was set up in March 2011 after a ministerial U-turn on plans to sell off 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodlands.

The government said at the time of the panel's report in July 2012 that it accepts the recommendations and will halt plans to sell-off state-owned forests.

Conservative peer Lord Eden of Winton argued that forests are "important not just for our pleasure but our survival" but warned of "the need to control leisure activities" in order to prevent woodland being damaged by visitors.

Lib Dem Baroness Parminter spoke about creating "a sense of shared purpose" in order to "ensure momentum is kept up" on preserving the nation's forests.

Shadow Lords leader Baroness Royall wound up for Labour, declaring she was "concerned about the future of forest services".

She expressed her fear that the independent panel's proposals were being "watered down" and urged the government not to "lose sight of the fact that people live and work in forests".

Replying for the government, Environment Minister Lord de Mauley paid tribute to what he called "a compelling vision for the future of England's trees" set out in the panel's report.

He assured peers: "It will remain secure in public ownership, for the people who enjoy it, the businesses that depend on it and the wildlife that thrives in it."

In January the government published its forestry policy statement, which includes plans to:

  • increase the amount of actively-managed woodland
  • reduce unnecessary regulation and red tape affecting the forestry sector
  • explore the scope for exploiting economic opportunities, such as wood fuel markets and rural tourism, and
  • encourage local government and Local Enterprise Partnerships play a role in realising the potential of woodland assets.

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