THERE is enough suitable land to triple tree cover in England, without impacting on other Priority Habitats such as peat bogs, according to analysis of unpublished Forestry Commission data by environmental group Friends of the Earth.

Friends of the Earth says its analysis shows there is sufficient suitable land for an additional 3.2 million ha of trees on top of existing woodland, which would take England’s tree cover from the current level of 10 per cent (1.36 million ha out of 13 million ha total), to 35 per cent.

The Forestry Commission’s data screens out protected and precious wildlife sites (including SSSIs and Priority Habitats, such as peat bogs and species-rich grassland) and valuable farmland (‘Likelihood of Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land’, Grades 1–3a). The data also excludes National Parks and AONBs from consideration for increased tree cover.

Guy Shrubsole, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Restoring forests in England has huge potential for fighting the climate and nature crisis. This data, which the government seems to ignore, shows how much land there is for this – all without impacting pre-existing key habitats.

“But ministers are still failing to grow enough trees, and even failed to set a target in the recent England Tree Strategy. This must change. The climate crisis is only going to get more dire if proper action isn’t taken.”

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