RSPB England is encouraging people to speak up for nature by giving their views on the England Tree Strategy

 Credit: Sherwood Forest by Stephen Morgan

The Government is consulting on an England Tree Strategy. This is a much-needed opportunity for you to share your views on how pledges for more trees and woodland can deliver for people, nature and climate. Expansion of tree and woodland cover in England is needed, and can be achieved in a way that benefits all and be sustainable in the long-term. But delivering the right tree in the right place will require careful planning and forethought, and your input to get this strategy right will be crucial.

We need more trees for people, nature and climate

The England Tree Strategy must deliver urgent action to address the crisis facing our climate and ecosystems and help to restore nature.

The strategy must set out clear plans for how delivery of more woodland cover in England will help to restore nature along with climate change mitigation and other community benefits. Clear targets will be needed, with a focus on native trees and providing for natural regeneration of native woodland as well as planting. Using locally-sourced or regenerated native trees will help to support wildlife through climate change and reduce risks from imported pests and diseases.

The strategy must contribute to a green recovery 

There is overwhelming public demand for a green recovery and more access to nature-rich areas that contribute to a happier and healthier recovery from the Coronavirus crisis and economic recovery[1].

Maintaining strong environmental protections will be vital in order to deliver the trees and woodlands our communities need and to avoid high value habitats being lost to commercial forestry as they were in the past.

It is vital the strategy forms part of a coherent, strategic approach to land use change. As well as a tree strategy, Defra are developing plans for delivering a Nature Recovery Network and Local Nature Recovery Strategies, a Peatland Strategy needed to restore peatlands and a new land management scheme to pay farmers to take action for the natural environment.

Crucial to this will be protections for our non-woodland wildlife. Many special places for nature, such as peatlands and wildflower meadows, exist outside woodlands and new woodland must work alongside these. A robust approach to regulation including use of Environmental Impact Assessments will help to ensure that the impacts of woodland expansion are positive and provide genuine benefits for communities, rare and declining wildlife and the climate. It will also help to deliver a Nature Recovery Network through strategic mapping, better use of ecological surveys and appropriate buffer zones.

Trees, woodlands and other habitats offer a nature-based solution to climate change

 

The strategy has a key role to play in enabling more trees and woodland as a nature-based solution to climate change. The clue here is in the name – nature must be at the heart of new woodlands, and a focus on native woodland will help meet the needs of both climate and biodiversity.

The Nature for Climate Fund – being developed now to help fund the England Tree Strategy – therefore needs to support new native woodland in a targeted way alongside other nature-based solutions to climate change such as restored peatlands and saltmarsh. This will require efforts from private landowners, in National Parks, on public land including the Nation’s Forests, and other large landowners. Our work at RSPB Haweswater with support from United Utilities and others is helping manage the water catchment and enhance habitats, including planting native trees from our own nursery to support natural regeneration across an area of 3000 hectares around the existing ancient oak woodland.

Funding must be available to deliver on commitments to nature recovery, and funding for new woodlands will have a key role to play in this.

Urgent action is needed to restore woodland wildlife

Wildlife in woodlands is in decline. As well as new trees and woods, the England Tree Strategy should set out how existing woodland can be better protected, managed and restored to secure the future of woodland wildlife, and the policies needed to achieve this.

The RSPB manages over 12,000 hectares of woodland throughout the UK to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, with a focus on providing habitats for wildlife and delivering many other benefits.

More woodland must be brought into sustainable management that benefits rare and declining woodland wildlife, like the pied flycatcher and chequered skipper, which can benefit from management approaches described in the Woodland Wildlife Toolkit online resource.

Have your say

This is your chance to shape new woodlands in England! Our partners at the Woodland Trust have set up a really easy way to input into the consultation - use the form they have created to have your say.

If you’re feeling brave, do tackle the full consultation response. This is the best way to shape the outcome of the consultation, and you don’t have to answer all 45 questions!

 

 

[1] Results of a YouGov poll commissioned by the RSPB

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