Nice email from my MP:
Following our previous correspondence, I’m writing today to let you know that my Lib Dem colleague David Heath, recently appointed as Minister for Forestry in DEFRA, has published the response to the Independent Panel Report on the Future of Forestry.
Selling off the nation’s forests provoked a massive response from local people, filling my postbag, email inbox and dominating my local surgeries for weeks. Of all the correspondence I have received since I was elected as your MP in 2010, saving our forests remains the single largest subject matter.
My Lib Dem colleagues and I led the campaign to reverse the original decision in Parliament; you may recall my 35 point letter to the previous Secretary of State on this issue, letting her know exactly how many local people had contacted me to express their concerns.
I am delighted that the Minister’s response, published on Thursday 31st January, makes it clear once and for all that the public forest estate will stay in public ownership in perpetuity. The ludicrous plan to sell off 15% of the estate has been reversed, and not only has the budget that was to be cut as a result been restored, but more money has been found to ensure the proposals can be funded properly.
However, the response goes much further than that. It recognises that keeping the public forest intact and free from political interference is essential to ensuring that free public access to woodlands can be guaranteed for generations to come. It proposes that ownership of our forests will be held in Trust for the nation, with clear objectives to protect its use. Learning from the depredation caused by Ash Die-Back Disease and other diseases, the response suggests there will be greatly enhanced protection against disease.
The response also seeks to improve the management of woodland across the country and to encourage its use, both to boost the local economy and to provide opportunities for recreation, for community involvement and for education. It commits the Government to continuing to expand tree cover - the suggested target is to see 12% of the country covered in woodland by 2060; for those who appreciate our history, that’s as much forest as was present in the year 1300 AD - during the reign of Edward I, who is remembered for his brutal suppression of the Scots in the film ‘Braveheart’.
People rightly care passionately about the future of our woods and forests. I hope they will feel confident that the Liberal Democrats in Government are not only restoring woodlands to their former glory, but protecting them for generations to come.
My party would like to hear more about your opinions on Britain’s forests. I would invite you to complete our quick survey here: http://www.libdememails.co.uk/forests. You are, of course, able to elect not to receive any communications on this subject from the Liberal Democrats by clearing the boxes on the survey to indicate this.
Common sense and public pressure have won the day and I am confident that now, we have a sensible and positive future for our woodlands.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me on this vitally important issue. Please do not hesitate to do so again on this or any other matter.