The New Forest National Park Authority has welcomed the Government’s announcement (31st January 2013) that publicly-owned forests in England will be kept in trust for the nation.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said a new public body will be created that will hold in trust the nation’s forests for future generations.
The Government Forestry and Woodlands Statement launched today says Government wants ‘strong and resilient delivery arrangements that achieve better quality outcomes for the economy, people and nature’.
It says a new separate Public Forest Estate management body will be given ‘greater freedom to achieve a sustainable financial position and manage its resources to best effect within a clear long-term remit to maintain and enhance the land, trees and other assets under its care’.
The Statement says: ‘This will include recognising both the integrity of the overall Estate and the unique historical, environmental and cultural characteristics of the living, working landscapes in its individual forests and woodlands, such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean.’
New Forest National Park Authority Chairman Julian Johnson said: ‘The New Forest National Park Authority welcomes the recognition from Government that National Parks are special places; the New Forest in particular has its own unique culture which needs nurturing and protecting.
‘The Government has also recognised the significant economic value that forestry and woodland brings, and the potential to do more. We are already looking at the potential of wood fuel in the Forest and working closely with tourism businesses (the New Forest alone generated £211m in tourism income in 2011/12) and we look forward to working further with private landowners and businesses to keep the Forest a living and working community.’
The report also says the new ways of working should deliver 12% woodland cover by 2060.
Mr Johnson said: ‘There is a commitment from Government to publish an Open Habitats Strategy this year which will enhance our unique mix of habitats in the New Forest and ensure that the right trees are in the right place.
‘There is also a commitment to focus on continuing to involve and liaise with local people and to harness the real passion that people have for their forests and woodlands. We will be working with partners to maintain public access to the New Forest which is so important to people’s health and well-being.’
The Government’s announcement was in response to a report by the Independent Panel on Forestry. The Panel was established on 17 March 2011 to advise government on the direction of forestry and woodland policy in England and on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy.
Mr Johnson said the National Park Authority was delighted to have been involved in the whole process of the review, including a visit by the Panel to the New Forest. He said: ‘We feel today’s Statement reflects the real benefits to people of the Public Forest Estate and has been informed by the valuable experience of people on the ground.’
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