Response to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s call for views – July 2011

Save Sherwood Forest logoSave Sherwood Forest is a local campaign group, representing the people of Nottinghamshire, originally established to campaign against the threat of the sell-off of the public forest estates. We have since been providing local people with a central voice that campaigns on their behalf against the threat of public sector cuts to open spaces and amenities, including our forests and woodlands as well as local country parks.

Such was the strength of feeling about the threats to our public spaces, people were turned away from the first meeting organised by Save Sherwood Forest as the numbers were to great for the 100-occupancy venue. This demonstrates the high value that people in Nottinghamshire put on their ability to access their natural areas. Consultation with those attending our meetings have seen people speaking out for woods and forests as places which provide them with opportunities for clean air, rest and recreation, relaxation, an escape from the stresses of life in the city and a place where people can interact with nature; as well as being places that inspire us and help us reconnect with the past:  trees having been around long before us and will remain long after we are gone. This final point cannot be understated: appreciation of woodlands and forests is inter-generational and many people visit these places with relatives as those relatives did with theirs. This brings about resilience in our communities and in turn strengthens our society.

The people of Nottinghamshire, through various forums and meetings organised by Save Sherwod Forest, have voiced visions for the future of England’s forests and woods. Chief among these have been the wish to see expansion of forests and wooded areas and that these areas become better accessed with greater facility for enjoyment and recreation. Concomitant with this would be to ensure that these areas are well staffed so that they can be cared for properly and that all opportunities for recreation and education are harnessed.

People recognise in these spaces the benefits they bring in improving people’s health locally as well as the health of the global environment. Moreover, they appreciate the unique nature of our nation’s landscape and the damage that has been wrought to it through past (often profit-driven) initiatives and enterprises. By increasing the diversity of the natural environment, we would be safeguarding ourselves, and our society, against future problems concerning access to food and resources that are threatened by national and global human-made problems.

As such, the economic benefits go beyond simple, yet measurable, understandings of timber yields and tourism incomes. Such things can be costed, but they cannot always be valued. Conversely, our woods and forests ensure that people at least have access to healthy, natural environments, thus improving their quality of life and their ability to engage with society through their work and leisure activities. These areas can bolster our defences against unforeseen events involving, for example, reduction in the numbers of pollinators for our food crops, or, in appropriate areas, against (increasingly damaging and widespread) flooding.

We, the people of Nottinghamshire, feel that investment in our forests and woodlands would be an investment in the future. Good practice would be in creating and enforcing better protection of our public spaces and allowing mechanisms for their expansions. Further, that a commitment is made, from (local and national) government, to allow no further degradation of our public spaces and wild areas and that these spaces be given more financial investment that social investments may be broadened. Staffing levels, and the ability of those staff to engage wider communities, are core to this and are indeed threatened by cuts to local and national budgets; in addition to the threats such cuts have to the overall quality of our public spaces.

While we are mindful of the great scope of the panel’s task, and that “the status quo is not an option”. We would therefore end by asking the panel to give serious consideration to the future. Selling off land, or cutting back on resources for the management of land, may be done with conditions now. But things can change. Reduction in the public sector’s ability to monitor proper stewardship, due to cuts in staff and other factors, will seriously limit public bodies’ ability to ensure decent and fair management of areas. When public lands pass to a private purse, even one that at the time has the best of intentions, we have little recourse to that land again. Woods and forests are not timeless in the strict sense, but people’s recollections of them are. The ability to access and interact with these spaces is paramount in many people’s enjoyment of life. They are publicly owned because they are the people’s land. We ask the panel do all they can to keep them as such.

Please do not hesitate to contact our representatives should further information be required.

Download the PDF of this response here:  SSF_072011_PanelResponse

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