Monday, 10 January 2011

The UN, ‘big society’ and UK forests

2011 has been proclaimed international year of forests by the UN, with its tagline ‘celebrating forests for people’. Did you know forests are home to 300 million people around the world, and the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people depend on forests?

Whilst there’s a distinct global feel to the UN’s message, we must keep an eye on our own woodland and public spaces to ensure they are kept public, and out of the hands of the private sector, which will inevitably lead to their destruction.

In October last year, it was widely reported that the Government confirmed plans to sell off Forestry Commission woodland. The move showed that even inanimate trees cannot be saved from the Government’s idea for a ‘big society’, where there will be a reduced role for the state and a growing role for the private sector.

Despite Government insistence that privatisation would not mean a compromise on conservation, many people are sceptical, in the way they were 20 years ago when the previous Tory government proposed something similar. Last week, words turned into action when more than 3,000 people protested at the Forest of Dean against the proposed sale of the Forestry Commission.

The bill to decide the future of Forestry Commission land (all 650,000 hectares of it) will be debated in Parliament within the next few weeks. If turned into law, land including the New Forest and Sherwood Forest may be sold to the highest bidder, who protesters fear will be energy companies and developers, looking to limit public access and make a quick buck.

Watch this (green) space...

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