The mar­ket

Shooting Gazette - - The Review - Peter Topham Forestry man­ager, Sav­ills

The ap­point­ment of Sir Wil­liam Wors­ley as the Gov­ern­ment’s first Tree Cham­pion is wel­come news in the face of our coun­try’s ail­ing wood­lands. Tree plant­ing in Eng­land is at its low­est level for a gen­er­a­tion and lat­est fig­ures from the World Bank show that cov­er­age is now down to 13 per cent in the UK, far lower than the Euro­pean av­er­age of 38 per cent. The Gov­ern­ment’s recog­ni­tion for the need to do more to sup­port our wood­lands was brought to the fore in 2015 when a pledge was made to plant 11 mil­lion more trees by 2020. How­ever, by this time last year the Forestry Com­mis­sion re­ported that fewer than 2.5 mil­lion more trees had been planted since the tar­get was set. The lack of progress has been at­trib­uted to the lack of a depart­ment to drive the ini­tia­tive.

Sir Wil­liam has been ap­pointed in the role for one year, with a com­mit­ment of only four days per month, so, with a tough brief ahead, where should he fo­cus his ef­forts? Let’s start with plant biose­cu­rity, as an in­creas­ing num­ber of pests and dis­eases are im­ported each year to which our well-adapted species are of­ten de­fence­less. Longer quar­an­tine pe­ri­ods, more thor­ough checks and out­right bans on im­ported ma­te­ri­als are all wor­thy con­sid­er­a­tions to help tackle these chal­lenges. Sir Wil­liam will need to con­sider how to bal­ance these in­creased, but slower, de­fences, with the ex­pected speed of trade.

An­other key is­sue is that of the un­nec­es­sary felling of street trees. Space in our cities is at a pre­mium and de­mand for hous­ing is high, which makes the ques­tion of how best to go about in­cor­po­rat­ing trees into our ur­ban ar­eas an in­creas­ingly com­plex one.

There are in­cen­tives for plant­ing trees and fund­ing avail­able from the EU to un­der­take ini­tia­tives. Yet the coun­try is still fail­ing to raise lev­els of plant­ing suf­fi­ciently. We are al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an in­crease in de­mand for tim­ber, and while there are many is­sues af­fect­ing trees, tim­ber prices are at the high­est they have been for some time. This is help­ing own­ers to open the for­est gate again to see what is go­ing on in the wood­land. The cre­ation of a new Tree Cham­pion role high­lights the im­por­tance of the cause to Gov­ern­ment, on which ba­sis there is now real po­ten­tial to build this into a wave of ac­tion on trees at last.

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