At the moment in the UK, we are cutting down irreplaceable ancient woodland to build a high-speed railway. There are people who feel that the railway will deliver environmental benefits and that this means it is worth cutting down the trees for. There are people (me amongst them) who are deeply uneasy about the idea of the ends justifying the means in this way. The argument that we can and should trash wild places and unique habitats to save the greater whole is, I think, deeply suspect. It ignores the importance of specific places, focuses on human benefits and it turns care for wild things into a numbers game. And numbers are so easily manipulated to tell whatever story suits you.
Recently the PM announced that there are no trees in the UK over 200 years old. This staggering ignorance only increases the danger to our ancient woodland. If decisions about national projects and the spending of public money are going to be made on the basis of what uninformed people imagine is going on… we’re in trouble.
Ancient woodland is real. Trees over 200 years old are very real. You can get involved with The Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory here – https://ati.woodlandtrust.org.uk/
The National Trust has a page on our most ancient trees – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/enter-a-world-of-ancient-trees
Lack of access to green space has been a real issue during lockdown. The evidence for the impact of trees on mental health, and the necessity of green space for exercise and physical wellbeing, exists. It’s not a controversial subject. However, we’re short of trees, short of urban trees and short of access to trees and this needs to change.
A strong England Tree Strategy is crucial. It is the plan that will determine what the Government does to protect, plant and restore woods and trees for years to come. A plan informed by reality rather than the whims of those in power, would be a great help.
There is a DEFRA consultation underway. It is split into four key sections and below is some guidance to help people write their own personalised responses.
* expanding woodland cover: target of 18,000 ha of new native woodland.
* protecting existing trees and woods: at least 75% of native woods need to be in either good condition or improving for nature by 2030.
* connecting trees with people: it needs to be mandatory for every local authority to have its own tree strategy.
* trees as part of the economy: ensure that all trees bought with public money are UK sourced and grown.
You can share your thoughts here – http://www.woodlandtru.st/x5nAg