A speech given by Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has been met with optimism at the Woodland Trust’s Parliamentary lunch this week, which was attended by MPs, ministers, farmers, businesses leaders and academics.
Michael Gove said, “There is a responsibility for us to plant for the future. Compare us to the rest of Europe and the amount of woodland cover we have is pathetically small. The rates of tree planting in the UK, and England in particular, have not been good enough.”
“There is a beauty and a poetry to a landscape decorated and indeed rooted with trees. If we have a care for our environment and if we have a view of this country that goes beyond the utilitarian and the practical, and which is viewed in a proper sense of beauty, romance, history and a desire to ensure future generations can enjoy what past generations have cherished, then we need to plant more trees.”
“And with the publication of our 25 Year Plan for the Environment in the New Year, I hope we can say more on how we intend to meet that ambition.”
The Woodland Trust has been calling for more action on tree planting rates and ancient woodland protection, with a greatly enhanced role for trees, woods and forests as the UK withdraws from the European Union and we disengage from the Common Agricultural Policy.
The Woodland Trust’s CEO, Beccy Speight, said 2017 had been a low point for the UK’s trees and woods. “In England, new planting rates are at the lowest for a generation. At the same time, we see continued loss of existing woodland at an accelerated rate due to weak planning laws. The lack of effort to quantify these losses means England is surely slipping unnoticed into a state of deforestation. This is an appalling and dire position for a developed country to be in.”
In light of Michael Gove’s speech, Ms Speight went on to say, “We’re hopeful. And we’re watching closely.”