Updated England Tree Strategy slated for later this year as government faces uphill struggle to meet its 2025 tree planting targets
The government is seeking views on expanding tree cover, woodland, and forestry in order to inform an updated England Tree Strategy that is due later this year, as it faces an uphill battle to meet its target to plant to 30,000 hectares of trees each year across the UK by 2025.
The 12-week consultation, which closes on 11 September, is aimed at farmers, foresters, land managers, environmental organisations, and independent experts, as well as members of the public. Views are being sought on expanding, protecting, and improving public and private trees and woodlands.
Defra said it was also keen for input on how to better connect the public with nature, and the most effective ways in which trees and woodlands can be created and managed to help combat climate change.
The government faces a major challenge to deliver its 2025 tree planting ambitions, with figures showing only around 1,300 hectares of trees were planted in England in 2018-19. As such the upcoming Strategy is seen as a critical to helping meet both its nature and climate targets.
Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith stressed that growing, protecting, and restoring tree cover had numerous benefits for the country, including helping to reduce carbon emissions, encouraging biodiversity and nature recovery, improving mental health and wellbeing, and boosting the UK's timber market.
"In many ways the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the importance of nature," he said. "Growing and protecting our nation's forests will be an integral part of our recovery, and the England Tree Strategy will give us the tools to do this. This consultation will help inform a keystone strategy which will be vital for helping us deliver the government's tree planting commitment, our commitment to the recovery of nature and reaching net zero emissions by 2050."
Work towards developing the England Tree Strategy will also help shape plans for a new England Peat Strategy, as well as the peatland aspects of the £640m Nature for Climate Fund, which was announced as part of the Budget earlier this year.
Forestry Commission chair and former National Tree Champion, Sir William Worsley, said he would be working closely with Defra to develop the England Tree Strategy.
"The England Tree Strategy will set out how we plan to accelerate woodland creation, but also importantly how to manage and protect the trees we already have," he said. "Significant work has gone into developing the groundwork for a strategy which will ensure the right tree is planted in the right place, and for the right reason."
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