The National Trust has vowed to play its part in protecting England's publicly-owned ancient woodlands, as the threat of a £250 million Government sell-off looms.
The charity described plans to dispose of the country's 258,000 hectare forest estate over the next decade as "a watershed moment in the history of the nation".
It has put out a rallying call for the public's urgent support to ensure heritage forests such as the Forest of Dean and the New Forest are preserved for future generations.
"If the Government is determined to pursue the course of action it has outlined and the public wish us to, we are ready to play our part in giving them a secure future. It is therefore essential and urgent that everyone who cares for these special places now make their voices heard over what should happen to them."
From what I have read, both Bedgebury Forest (http://www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk/) and Alice Holt Forest have already been ear-marked to be either sold-off or leased to private concerns. Whoever purchases or leases these forests will be looking for a return on their investment and, as far as I can see, this could only be achieved by commercial ventures such as golf courses and holiday parks.
The National Trust, quite rightly, are concerned to protect the ancient forests but there are other areas of woodland and forest that may be affected by the government plans. In national terms, the loss of flora and fauna may be substantial and this does not seem to have been taken into account in these proposals. Species that are already under pressure from habitat loss in Britain will be pushed even further towards the brink of extinction.
It is said that "some 15% of the forest estate, worth an estimated £100m, is already being sold.
The latest consultation could lead to the sale of the remaining 85% 'owned' by the Forestry Commission, totalling 2,500 sq km.
Under the new proposals ancient woodland such as the Forest of Dean could be designated 'heritage forestry' and transferred to and run by a charitable trust."
That seems to me to lack credibility as the maintainence of large swathes of forest would be beyond the means of most charitable trusts.
"Commerically valuable forests will be leased to commercial operators for up to 150 years but under conditions that public benefits of the woods are preserved."
Public access may well be preserved but the value of these woodlands and forests to wildlife does not seem to be a consideration that is being taken into account in these proposals.
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