Save our forests – The debate continues

The debate about the future of our forests continues the BMC reports that
nine organisations, representing a range of people who enjoy the great outdoors, have today (10th May) issued a statement to the Chair of the Independent Panel on Forestry, Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, expressing their concerns and hopes for the future of public access to all our forests and woodland.

The BMC reports that the Group is calling on the Independent Panel to ensure that ‘access is at the heart’ of its discussions concerning the future of our forests, an assurance made by the Secretary of State Caroline Spelman in response to a question posed by David Rutley MP (Conservative, Macclesfield) in the House of Commons on 17 February 2011. After presenting the statement to the Chair the Group expects to meet all members of the Panel to express firsthand the value of our woods and forests for public enjoyment.

The organisations which make up the Forest Access User Group represent over 8 million people who use woodlands regularly and have a broad recreational, conservation and management interest in our forests and woodlands. The Group includes:

Justin Cooke, Ramblers Senior Policy Officer, said: “We call on the Panel to find ways to protect, maintain and increase access to all our nation’s woodlands and ensure that access is at the heart of its work. We look forward to engaging with them to ensure that public access to our forests is protected now and always.”

You can read the full article on the BMC website

Forest Access User Group’s joint statement to the Bishop of Liverpool James Jones:

The Forest Access User Group believes that protecting and enhancing public access to our woodland and forests must be at the heart of the Panel’s work. Following the huge public outcry which resulted in the consultation on the future management of the Public Forest Estate being “put on hold”, and the temporary suspension of Forestry Commission land-sales, we believe that the Panel now has the opportunity fully to realise the multi-purpose function of our woodland and forest estates.

As the Secretary of State made clear to the House of Commons when announcing the establishment of the Independent Panel in the House of Commons on 17 February 2011,

“It is important that the panel looks at all forms of access, including access for walkers, riders and cyclists,” and “We want to expand access to our forests and woodlands because it is in everyone’s interests that we do so.”

The Public Forest Estate makes up only 18% of England’s woodland and forests but accounts for 44% of our accessible woodlands. With the public making over 40 million visits a year to the Forestry Commission Estate, the Commission is the single, largest provider of countryside recreation opportunities and provides some of the best examples of welcoming, well-managed public access in England, which any private landowner would be hard pressed to match.

This cherished national asset therefore needs to be protected for public access in all forms, be it on foot, bike, horseback, horse-drawn carriage or with a dog, helping to strengthen the public’s understanding of the natural environment. Woods and forests must also continue to bring clear physical and mental benefits to the public by remaining fully accessible.

The Forest Access User Group looks forward to giving further evidence to the Independent Panel on the value of our woodland and forests for public access and urges the Panel to take the opportunity fully to develop appropriate forestry and woodland policy in England which delivers benefits to both public access and wildlife.

Sign up to support the Forest Access User Group’s statement that:

This cherished national asset needs to be protected for public access in all forms, be it on foot, bike, horseback, horse-drawn carriage or with a dog, helping to strengthen the public’s understanding of the natural environment. Woods and forests must also continue to bring clear physical and mental benefits to the public by remaining fully accessible.

To support the above statement visit the Ramblers website

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