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Although the six themes reflected in the original 2003 Regional Woodland Strategy are still valid, policy and priorities have changed; climate change and economic growth are now seen as key priorities.
With the East of England likely to be most affected by climate change communities will need to find ways of addressing this challenge through adaptation and mitigation. Several recent Government and other publications such as the Low Carbon Transition Plan[i] and the “Read Report”[ii] and the Carbon Plan set out quite clearly the important role that trees have to play.
While this website reflects some of the existing six themes from the original 'Woodland for Life', albeit with some differing emphasis, it also brings into focus how trees can help with the issue of climate change and much more.
- sustainable woodland management -
The basis of all suggestions remains sustainable woodland management, the overall term used for describing how the use of woodlands can best contribute towards the Government's strategies for sustainable development. See ' Securing the future: delivering UK sustainable development strategy' (HMG 2005).
In 'Sustainable Futures - Integrated Sustainability Framework' published in January 2009, although now out of date, the key challenges still remain valid for communities, local Authorities and Businesses in the East of England. By making the best use of woodland, trees and forests maximising the benefit they can bring it will help to address several of these:
- Promote sustainable growth within environmental limits
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Adapt to impacts of climate change
- Increase resource efficiency and reduce recourse use and waste
- Conserve and restore the regions natural and built environment
- Promote employment learning, skills and innovation
The UK Forestry Standard (UKFS)[iii] sets out the criteria and standards for the sustainable management of all forests and woodlands in the UK. It is the centrepiece of a system to guide and monitor forestry. It is linked to the developing international protocols for sustainable forestry.
The management cycle of timber production in accordance with the UKFS has a key role to play in sustainable woodland management: A series of indicators of sustainable forestry, against which it is possible to assess management practices, have been established for the UK which are linked to wider sustainable development indicators.
The UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) was developed jointly by Government and forestry, environmental and social interests for the independent certification of forest management. UKWAS is based on the UK Forestry Standard and enables timber sourced from certified woodland to access markets which are increasingly demanding credible independent assurance that timber products come from sustainably managed sources.
The UK Forestry Standard (UKFS)[iv] sets out the criteria and standards for the sustainable management of all forests and woodlands in the UK. It is the centrepiece of a system to guide and monitor forestry. It is linked to the developing international protocols for sustainable forestry;
Sustainable management of woodlands -
- Protects natural resources and the cultural environment (for example by protecting soils and archaeological artefacts);
- Creates and sustains biodiversity e.g. to delivering specific public benefits (for example the habitat for woodlark and nightjar populations);
- Provides funding which can be used to offset the cost of providing public benefits (for example the sale of firewood from a coppicing operation that is carried out for dormouse conservation reduces the net cost of the conservation operation);
- Helps to implement international commitments by promoting the use of timber from sustainably managed resources (and in the process reduces our reliance on imported wood and wood products).
i. Why plan for trees, woodland and forests?
Trees and woodlands provide a wide range of benefits, more than any other land use can boast. However to get the most benefits out of these valuable assets it is worth looking at the different ways they can be used and in what circumstances they may add value to a project or community - economically, socially and environmentally.
The benefits of trees and woodland include:
Enhancement of the beauty of the countryside,
Protection of historic assets,
Revitalisation of derelict and degraded landscapes,
Improved settings for housing and industry creating a sense of place
Supply of timber and other products,
Exploitation of food resources,
Opportunities for tourism and sport,
A source of renewable energy,
Habitat and wildlife conservation,
Removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and carbon storage
Protection and improvement of soil and water quality.
Climate change adaptation in urban areas
The vision behind this website is that: communities, businesses, and local authorities in the East of England need to make the most of the benefits that trees and woodland bring to the economy, to society, for the environment and addressing climate change.
iii. Current policy drivers
There is a plethora of legislation, agreements and policies at global, European and national levels related to trees, woods and forests. Whilst it is not possible to list all those relevant, they cover a range of subjects including forestry, rural and urban living, sustainable development, renewable energy, environmental issues and land use. The key policy documents that have a bearing on woodland and woodland management are as follows:
- UK Biodiversity Action Plan (HMG 1994b). Ensures the UK meets its obligations under the Rio (earth summit) Declaration. These are in turn reinforced by general guidance given in Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 9 (CLG 2005) and ‘A Strategy for England’s Trees, Woods and Forests’ (DEFRA 2007).
- The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan: National Strategy for Climate and Energy (HMG 2009). Published by central government it includes a commitment to plant 15,000 ha of woodland per annum in England for the next 15 years. This equates to something in the order of 250 ha a year of new woodland in Essex.
- The Government published its draft Carbon Plan in early March 2011. The Carbon Plan is a Government-wide plan of action on climate change, including domestic and international activity, that sets out department-by-department, actions and deadlines for the next 5 years. It contains important references to the role of woodland creation in carbon sequestration, the Woodland Carbon Code, the Woodland Carbon Task Force and the impending Woodfuel Implementation Plan. The Carbon Plan will effectively supersede strategies published by the former administration as the political mandate for the woodland creation and woodfuel dimensions of Forestry Commission work. The draft is effectively open for comments until July and it is intended that the final plan will be published in October 2011. www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/lc_uk/carbon_plan/carbon_plan.aspx
- Woodfuel Strategy for England (FC 2007). This contains a national target of bringing to market an additional 2 million tonnes of wood, annually, by 2020. This represents approximately 50% of the currently un-harvested sustainable yield in English woodlands and would save 400,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
- Policy Planning Statement (PPS) 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation (CLG 2005). Specifically identifies Veteran trees and ancient woodlands as being matters for special consideration and protection, when being considered by the planning process.
- Most recently the Environment Consultation paper - 'An invitation to shape the Nature of England' states that…England’s trees, woods and forests, ranging from individual street trees to networks of woodland in the countryside are a unique asset-rich in bio-diversity, popular places for recreation and leisure, producers of products such as fuel and wood for use in our daily lives and an important part of our response to climate change. We need to manage and expand this resource sustainably – for our generation and for future generations recognising all of these multiple benefits’.(page 20)
- There has also been recognition of the importance of ecosystems services as highlighted in the consultation document, “An invitation to shape the Nature of England”[v]; this could prompt a genuine boost to valuing trees and the contribution they make to our wellbeing.