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RSPB calls for…

…Forestry & Wildlife Service

In the consultation over the future of England’s forests, the RSPB believes its idea for the creation of a Forest and Wildlife Service – merging the conservation and heritage elements of the Forestry Commission and Natural England – has much to commend it.

The RSPB will be suggesting the creation of such a service in its response to the Government’s consultation on the future of England’s public forest estate. The proposal would mean that iconic ‘heritage forests’ could remain in the public sector, whilst enabling government to overcome the current regulatory conflict of interest.

A Forest and Wildlife Service could sit alongside, or within, a reshaped Natural England and include the current regulatory functions of the Forestry Commission.Dr Mark Avery is the Society’s Conservation Director. He said: “Surely we should use the consultation to think deeply about the future role of the state in forestry as a business, and land management as a public service.

Why not separate the truly commercial forests from the ones that are primarily of heritage value and change the remit of the Forestry Commission to deliver those social and environmental aspects for which people are now crying out.

The Forestry Commission delivers a mix of economic, environmental and social benefits. But in the real world, the Treasury has a stranglehold and the Commission has to deliver a financial return which means acting like a business a lot of the time, rather than a public service.

Let us recognise that many of the very best and most culturally valuable of our state-owned or state-managed forests cost us money, and always will, and let’s decide that is money we are happy to pay. But let’s fund the delivery of beautiful forests, which we can enjoy, from the sale of some of the ugly industrial conifer forests that are also ours. In the FC we have the business of making money from timber too mixed up with the public service of delivering beautiful forests. And too often the money wins out in the end.”

4th July 2014