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Forestry Commission: Who are they and what do they do?

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(Last updated on: 27/05/2020)

The UK has some wonderful countryside areas, many of which I have been lucky enough to explore and enjoy. One organisation that I have come cross on my travels throughout the UK is the Forestry Commission and I wanted to learn more…. and it seems that you do too (that’s why you’re here, right?).

So, in this article I will teach you a bit more about this Forestry Commission, who they are and what they do.

Forestry Commission

Who are the Forestry Commission?

The Forestry Commission is a non-ministerial government department. They are responsible for the management of publicly owned forests, and the regulation of both public and private forests, throughout England.

The Forestry Commission was founded in 1919. This was in order to expand forests and woodland across Britain after the First World War, which had seen the depletion of around 95% of forest cover. Over 3000 people now work in the department, and they are parented by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Ultimately, they are an organisation who value:

  1. Teamwork: working as teams with colleagues and others to ensure that trees, woods
  2. and forests meet the needs of people in each part of Britain.
  3. Professionalism – enjoying and taking pride in our work, and achieving high standards of
  4. quality, efficiency and sustainability.
  5. Respect – treating one another with consideration and trust, recognising each person’s
  6. contribution.
  7. Communication – being open, honest and straightforward with colleagues and others, as
  8. willing to listen as to tell.
  9. Learning – always learning, from outside the Forestry Commission as well as from
  10. within.
  11. Creativity – not being afraid to try new ways of doing things.

What do the Forestry Commission do?

Overall, the commission’s main aim is to protect and expand Britain’s forests and woodlands, and increase they value to society and the environment.

This helps to ensure sustainable tourism throughout the country and to enhance the positive impacts of rural tourism.

Forest coverage has doubled since 1919 and the creation of the Forestry Commission. This has seen the department expand their role to include sustainable forest management and the maximisation of public benefits. But woodland creation is still vastly important.

The Forestry Commission works alongside the government and they hope to achieve a goal of 12% forest coverage by 2060.

To deliver their message and their work, the Forestry Commission have two agencies. These are Forestry England and Forest Research.

Forestry England

Forestry England cares for over 1,500 forests across the country. That’s more than any other organisation in England!

They have helped to grow and shape this land, so that current and future generations can benefit from and enjoy it. Their work has also benefitted wildlife and just nature in general; they conserve the home and habitats of thousands of plants and animals. 

Forestry England supply England’s largest amount of sustainably-sourced timber. They have also built over 1,800 miles worth of trails: for running, walking and cycling. This encourages people to explore nature, take in some fresh air and get some exercise. All within beautiful woodland surroundings!

As an organisation, Forestry England is always thinking of the future. They plan and plant forests that will be sustainable and have an incredible impact on generations to come, in many ways. This improves the health and wellbeing of communities and allows the forests to thrive.

Forest Research

Forest Research work right across Great Britain, and lead the way in terms of forestry and tree-related researched.

They are world-renowned when it comes to provision of evidence and scientific services supporting sustainable forestry.

As well as working closely with the Forestry Commission, they also work with the European Union, other international bodies, environment NGOs, and the devolved administrations.

They aim to be recognised as a leading provider of:

  • applied forest and tree-related science 
  • forestry data services
  • policy evidence
  • technical development
  • specialist extension services
  • professional training

Forest Research, as the name suggests, research all things forestry.

They use this to inform and inspire the development and delivery of policies which will ultimately protect trees and forests long-term. Their priorities are to enhance forest ecosystem resilience, ensure that forests are managed sustainably and can adapt to climate change, and provide effective knowledge exchanges with the aforementioned bodies.

Why is the Forestry Commission important?

When it comes to exploring nature, it is vital that we – and future generations – are able to do so safely. And it is incredible to have the chance to do so at all.

As mentioned, the end of the First World War saw an almost-total wipe out of forestry in the UK, and it is thanks to the Forestry Commission and their child organisations that we are now able to appreciate large green spaces around the country.

Forests are so important to our survival. The WWF says that we depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. 

As well as helping us breathe and ensuring that animals have places to thrive, and other science-related things, forests are beautiful.

Forests provide open spaces for children to run around in. They offer walking trails, picnic spots, the opportunity to get up close and personal with various wildlife…

England is perfect for forests, too, because of the mild winters and there being plenty of rain and fertile soil.

It is thanks to the Forestry Commission and continued their hard work over the years that we are now have so much greenery to enjoy. Below you can find out about some specific things the Forestry Commission have done and continue to do…

The International Year of Forests

Back in 2011, the UN declared the International Year of the Forests.

The Forestry Commission were keen to support this; they organised events throughout the year, contributing widely to the UK’s response. There were forest discovery days, maps and activities, a mass tree hug.

The Forestry Commission used this opportunity to educate local communities about multi-purpose forestry. They made links with global forests, produced an iPhone app to further educate people, and worked with FSC and WWF to raise awareness of sustainable timber.

100 years of forestry

2019 marked 100 years of the Forestry Commission.

To celebrate, they created virtual forest tours to be used in classrooms (via Google Expeditions) and encouraged communities to send them letters, stories, poems and memories about trees and forests. There are so many learning opportunities available with Forestry England the Forestry Commission!

The centenary also saw a writing competition being launched with aimed to diversify nature writing.

Alice Holt Forest

Located in Hampshire, Alice Holt Forest was the first Research Forest in the UK.

During the 18th and 19th centuries it supplied timber from oak trees for Royal Navy ships – it is now filled with conifers, mostly. The Forestry Commission took over the forest management in 1924. Two decades later, in 1946, they established a research station in Alice Holt Lodge: a former manor house.

Alice Holt Forest is a Site of Interest for Nature Conservation. Being a Research Forest, it provides space for an incredible amount of studies. These include studies carbon dynamics, wood fuels, environmental change and more.

Over 290,000 people visit this forest every year.

The Forestry Commission works closely with Cycling UK, and the forest’s project Cycling for All provides countless opportunities for people of all ages and ability to cycle in Alice Holt Forest.

The Big Tree Plant

in 2010, the Forestry Commission co-launched the Big Tree Plant.

The campaign aimed to plant one million trees in areas of the UK where people live and work in order to halt the decline in tree-planting. Surveys had shown that there weren’t as many trees being planted as there previously had been. As trees are so important to our ecosystem, this was a clear issue.

£4.2 million of funding was made available to the relevant groups. This was used for the tree-planting itself as well as further surveys, promoting community involvement and obtaining expert advice. The Forestry Commission provided the majority of this funding.

Woodland Carbon Code

The Forestry Commission also set out the Woodland Carbon Code.

Established in 2011, this is now the standard for projects involving the establishment of forestry in order to mitigate climate change. The code provides validation and verification as well as assurance about any levels of carbon sequestration coming from managed woodland.

The requirements of the Woodland Carbon Code are:

  • register with the Forestry Commission, stating the location and long-term objectives
  • meet national forestry standards to ensure they are sustainably and responsibly managed
  • have a long-term management plan
  • use standard methods for estimating the carbon that will be sequestered
  • demonstrate that the project delivers additional carbon benefits than would otherwise have been the case

Many organisations aim to create woodland and forest areas to offset their carbon emissions. But it can’t just be done at random. The creation of this code means that any project design and management can be done sustainably and responsibly. There are national standards and a transparent criteria. There is a registry service, and third party validation. This is another example of how the Forestry Commission put sustainability at the heart of everything they do.

To conclude: The Forestry Commission

As you can see, the Forestry Commission has an important role in the UK travel and tourism industry. They take care of our woodland areas and they encourage responsible enjoyment of these areas.

To learn more about this, take a look at my post on rural tourism.

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