THE forestry and wood-using industry has been urged to send a “consistent and concise” response to the England Tree Strategy consultation – stressing why the economics of growing timber add up and highlighting the environmental and social benefits which can follow.

A Confor members’ webinar to discuss the first Tree Strategy since 2007 ended on an optimistic note, with speakers highlighting that forestry and wood now has a much higher political profile.

Caroline Ayre, Confor’s national manager for England, said: “This is so timely and it’s on us all to get it right. With ELMs (the new Environmental Land Management scheme), forestry really has a seat at the table and is having its say.”

Justin Mumford, managing director of Lockhart Garratt and Confor chair for the east of England, said: “Momentum [for the forestry industry] is growing, driven by market forces. Better financing for woodland creation will deliver that growth, both the Government’s own funding and corporate finance.

“We need to sit around the kitchen table with farmers and landowners, discuss the figures, and make woodland creation happen.”

Olly Combe, of Stephenson Rural and Confor chair for the north of England, said: “We have a great story to tell and a fantastic product. This is an industry for our times.

“The big advantage this time around is that we are much more organised in our messaging; and our message to the consultation needs to be consistent and concise. The economic and productivity arguments need to go up the agenda.”

Mr Combe said there had to be policy alignment between the Tree Strategy and ELMs and urged UK Forestry Minister, Lord Goldsmith, to ensure that his call for a “colossal endeavour” to meet tree-planting targets included a commitment by all Government departments to work with the industry.

He also suggested that the UK Government had to “cascade down” planting targets (30,000 hectares across the UK by 2025) to ensure different regions had “deliverable” targets and a clear idea what was expected of them.

Key points raised by speakers and delegates were how to get more joined-up thinking about forestry and wood across UK Government departments – and why bodies including National Parks had to contribute and not resist planting more trees.

Mr Combe said: “Protected landscapes [like National Parks] have to be part of this and identify places where woodland creation can happen. They have been designed to preserve the landscape and effectively fossilise it. We need to use land management to prepare for climate change and [National Parks] need to accept things are changing.”

Caroline Ayre said some National Parks, like Exmoor, were well engaged but that others had “misconceptions” about forestry, although this tended to be at an individual rather than organisational level.

Mr Combe said the forestry and wood industry had to “work hard to promote its benefits” against a “kick-back from the environmental lobby.”

As well as the climate change benefits, he said there were clear net biodiversity gains from  tree planting – and the industry had to push for more “landscape-scale environmental thinking”.

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