Dave Bangs writes......
WE’VE WON !!
The privatization of the entire Forestry Commission estate has been cancelled, and the legal powers for this massive disposal – 2% of England - have been dropped from the Public Bodies Bill.
WE’VE GOT WHAT WE WANTED…OR HAVE WE ??
The Forestry Commission must still go ahead with shedding about 40% of their English employee’s jobs. That means all the forest management plans will be in chaos. The Forest Research part of the Commission – doing crucial work to tackle plant disease, monitor climate change and promote timber productivity - faces 25 % cuts. East Sussex forests could be run from Thetford, Suffolk, and their already bare-bones staff of five slashed.
The Commission may have to sell 15% of the estate in the autumn, if the government demands it. Their DEFRA grant will still be slashed…and the panel of experts appointed by the government to pontificate over the future of our forests will include representatives of the same conservation NGOs who failed to campaign against the privatization, and partially endorsed it, as well as forest industry reps. Both groups are united in their potential interest in cherry-picking our public forests.
WE HAVE ONE OF THE BEST NATIONAL FOREST SERVICES IN THE WORLD
It harvests trees 150% more efficiently than the private sector and produces 60% of our home grown timber on only 18% of our woodland. It cherishes a vast range of ancient woodlands, whilst planting new urban fringe and brownfield community forests.
The Forestry Commission’s South East Region – from the Chilterns to Kent – own or lease 98 woodlands, ranging from the old royal forest of Alice Holt, to Bedgebury National Pinetum, and large downland beech forests. Most of these woodlands are ancient, with carpets of bluebells and a rich wildlife. The Commission plan to restore all their ancient woodlands to their former glory.
ALL OF THESE WOODS REMAIN AT THREAT OF PIECEMEAL PRIVATISATION
The proposed privatization of our national forests stirred public anger to boiling point. Opposition groups formed all across the country. The 38 Degrees on-line petition has over half a million signatures.
WE NEED TO KEEP THE CAMPAIGN GOING
WHAT WE STAND FOR
1. A positive role for an expanded state national forest service and public forest estate in delivering a range of public benefits. No land sales. No job cuts. No funding cuts.
2. Opposition to all conservation NGO acquisitions of privatized FC land. We will seek the compliance of the NGO's with this boycott position
3. If there is to be a public consultation we want it be grass roots-led. There should be representation from trade unions and grass roots forest defence organizations on any government advisory panel, and its meetings should be in public. There should be no representation on any advisory panel for organizations who stand to benefit from Forestry Commission disposals.
4. We need democracy in the Commission's management. There should be public and staff representation at district, regional, and national level in Forestry Commission decision making.