In its drive to straighten out the nation’s finances, the Coalition (I won’t call it the government, as no-one actually voted for it) is proposing to sell off publicly-owned Forestry Commission land in England to raise a bit of cash.
The abysmal record of our formerly state-owned utilities in private ownership (the railways, buses, gas, water, electricity, phones…) should be enough to make anyone nervous at the prospect of another sell-off. But there’s also an important point of principle at stake.
Forestry Commission land is PUBLIC. We have a RIGHT to walk our dogs, ride our bikes and horses and take our children to play in them. As it is, 70% of the land in Britain is owned by less than 1% of the population (almost without exception congenital Tory voters).
Furthermore, the Forestry Commission, for all its faults, is now reversing its old, discredited policy of mass conifer planting and restoring our ancient woodlands – Britain’s equivalent, in habitat and biodiversity terms, of the tropical rainforest. Unfortunately, while of inestimable value for wildlife and recreation, our indigenous broad-leaved woods are far less profitable than coniferous monoculture. You can guess which way a new commercial owner is likely to lean.
There’s a huge groundswell of opposition to the plans, with the splendid Woodland Trust in the vanguard. Whether the Coalition will listen is another matter.
THE UNKINDEST CUT
Our politicians found the means to ease
The crisis in the banks that caused the crash,
And keep our struggling soldiers overseas
By cutting jobs and wages. But more cash
Is still required, so now we find our woods
And forests on the market. Public lands
And ancient oaks and coppice merely goods
To sell off cheap, and once in private hands
We’ll never get them back; then enterprise
Will take the place of stewardship. Behind
Locked gates and out of sight of prying eyes
They’ll plant their conifers and rob us blind.
They’ve hocked our future, spent our legacy.
They will not take the greenwood. Not from me.
For more information, and to sign the online petition against the proposals, please click here. Thank you.