Category Archives: Campaigns

Sustainability

If any of you guys emailed your MEP’s to urge them to vote for fisheries reform, all I can say is ‘Good work!’.

I picked up an email from the European parliament yesterday afternoon and this is the text:

A major reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which aims to cut fishing to sustainable stock levels, end dumping at sea, and base long-term planning on sound scientific data, was approved by Parliament on Wednesday. Overfishing is widely seen as the worst failure of the current CFP, dating from 2002. The new one is to take effect in 2014.

European Commission figures suggest that 80% of Mediterranean stocks and 47% of Atlantic ones are overfished. The reform voted in plenary sets out clear and strong measures to tackle this problem.

“We have shown today that the European Parliament is anything but toothless. We have used our power as a co-legislator, for the first time in fisheries policy, to put a stop to overfishing. Fish stocks should recover by 2020, enabling us to take 15 million tonnes more fish, and create 37,000 new jobs”, said fisheries reform rapporteur Ulrike Rodust (S&D, DE). Her report was adopted by 502 votes to 137, with 27 abstentions.

Stop overfishing by ending discards…

Discards – fish thrown back, usually because they are of an unwanted species or size – account for almost a quarter of total EU catches. Most of the discarded species die. To end this wasteful practice, MEPs voted to oblige fishing vessels to land all catches in accordance with a schedule of specific dates for different fisheries, starting from 2014.

Landed catches of fish that are undersized, for example, would be restricted to uses other than human consumption. Member states must ensure that fishing vessels comply with the discard ban.

…and respect maximum sustainable yield

From 2015, EU member states will be prevented from setting quotas that are too high to be sustainable. Fishermen will have to respect the “maximum sustainable yield” (MSY), i.e. catch no more than a given stock can reproduce in a given year. In today’s vote, MEPs sought to ensure that stocks recover by 2020 to above MSY levels and sustain them thereafter. Ultimately this should mean more fish, better catches and hence more jobs in the fishing industry.

Long-term planning to replace yearly quota-haggling

The reform will rely on multi-annual fish stock management plans to ensure that fishing stays sustainable. Taking a longer term approach should improve market predictability, which in turn should help the industry to invest better and plan ahead. Multi-annual plans will be based on more reliable and accurate scientific data, which EU member states will be obliged to collect and make available.

Next steps

Parliament will now start negotiations with the Council and the Commission on the reform plans before their second reading. The Irish Presidency of the Council has repeatedly said it hopes to achieve an agreement the end of June.

Result! And by a big majority too.

 

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EU fisheries update – correspondence – 05/02/2013

As you know I emailed our local MEP’s to urge them to vote for the reforms to the EU Common Fisheries Policy and I thought I’d share a couple of replies with you.

The first is from the local Conservative MEP, Robert Sturdy:

Dear Dr Holding,

Thank you for contacting me about this important issue. We are in the midst of CFP reform negotiations in the Parliament and have a real opportunity here to ensure that we get the radical reform that we have campaigned so hard for. The Fisheries Committee has already voted on the package and the plenary vote will be February 6th. This will finalise the Parliament’s position on the CFP.

As you know, there are many issues at stake, including regenerating the ever depleting fish stocks. Two thirds of EU commercial fisheries are over-fished. Discards play a big part in this over-exploitation and the Conservatives voted in favour of an end to discards and an implementation of the discard ban. However, we must ensure that this discard ban is workable and does not end up with us moving from discarding at sea simply to discarding on land. Instead of finding new markets for the extra 1.8 million tonnes of unwanted catches, we should firstly aim to use more selective gears to keep these fish in the ocean. The discard ban should therefore go hand in hand with a tougher approach on selective gear to ensure that the unwanted catches are not caught in the first place.

The Conservative delegation also voted in favour of maintaining stocks above maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2020. This will ensure that all fish stocks will have recovered to sustainable levels and fishermen will have had the necessary time to adjust to the new approach. We must work with scientists and stakeholders to come up with workable legislation that conserves fish stocks for future generations and which provides for a sustainable fishing sector. MSY will be an important factor in this scenario.

We are also fully supportive of fisheries management plans that involve all stakeholders and are based on a regional basis. We would like to see an end to the micro-management from Brussels that has bedevilled the sector for decades. Regionalisation therefore lies at the core of the CFP reform package.

My colleague, Struan Stevenson, is the rapporteur on one of the main legislative CFP reports, the Common Market Organisation and as such, he is responsible for steering this through the Parliament. The reforms contained in his report devolve day-to-day management responsibility of fisheries, introduce better labelling on fisheries products for consumers and provide a strengthened role for Producer Organisations. We received almost unanimous support at both the committee and plenary vote and are about to embark on negotiations with the EU Council and the European Commission at the end of February.

Please be assured that I fully support ambitious and radical reform to ensure both a sustainable ocean and a sustainable industry.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Sturdy MEP

I was pleased with the tone and the content of this reply as Mr Sturdy details the Conservative stance with regard to not just discard and overfishing, but technical solutions to minimise the wrong catch in the first place. Just goes to show, common sense can also inform political debate. Who’d have thought!

The second is from the representative of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) MEP Stuart Agnew:

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your recent email, addressed to Stuart Agnew MEP.  I am replying on his behalf.

Mr Agnew takes a serious interest in fisheries matters and has recently become a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee. He takes note of your views and he will be closely studying this package.

The Common Fisheries Policy has been a disaster. British fishing waters represent two thirds of the EU’s fishing grounds and were simply given away as part of the terms of our membership of the then Common Market by Edward Heath.  They were designated a ‘common resource’ to which the other member states have access, even those that are landlocked!

Best wishes,

Stuart Gulleford

Political Advisor to Stuart Agnew MEP
Office of Stuart Agnew MEP
UK Independence Party
145 New London Road
Chelmsford
Essex
CM2 0QT

Tel: 01245 266466
Fax: 01245 252071
Email: eastern@ukip.org
www.stuartagnewmep.co.uk
www.ukip.org

It appears that Mr Agnews ‘serious interest in fishing matters’ has rendered him so focussed that he completely forgot to address my point. Obviously he’s a very serious politician indeed.

Mr Gulleford completely ignored my point too, but took the opportunity to indulge himself with a little anti-European tub-thumping. You’ll notice his indignation that even land locked countries are allowed to fish in what he considers to be British waters (and I’m not sure where his assertion that British waters constitute two thirds of all EU fishing grounds originates from. Perhaps in his world Britain still has an empire and we own the North Atlantic). I wonder if he is similarly indignant about people who live in flat countries, such as Holland, being allowed to go to mountainous countries to go skiing. (May be he spends his winters at the foot of Ben Nevis with a placard with the exhortation ‘Dutchies go home – British mountains for British skiers!’  😉 )

EU fisheries update 04/02/2013 – addendum

I just found an email in my inbox from Chris Davies the Liberal Democrat MEP sitting on the EU Fisheries Committee. In it he asks us to write to our MEP’s urging them to vote for the changes to the Common Fisheries Policy in the Plenary vote on Wednesday 6th February. The debate on this is tomorrow, the 5th, followed by the vote on Wednesday.

If you follow the link lower down you can quickly find out who all your European MEP’s are and write an email to all of them. My email to my east of England MEP’s  is appended, please feel free to cut and paste if you wish, but bear in mind it will carry more weight if it is your own words.

This is the text of Chris’s email:

Vital Votes in European Parliament in February

Dear Fish Fighter

A quick note to let you know that the vote of the entire European Parliament on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is due to take place on Wednesday 6 February, following a debate in the chamber at Strasbourg the day before.

The Parliament’s Fisheries Committee voted on the issue before Christmas, and the 13-10 outcome was very satisfactory.  Amongst a number of useful proposals it was agreed that legally binding targets should be set to rebuild fish stocks above maximum sustainable yield (MSY), and to end discards by introducing an obligation to land all catches.

The vote in a fortnight will give all MEPs the chance to support or reject this package, as well as to consider any further amendments that have yet to be tabled. 

The aim of reformers is to maintain the positive momentum, and alert MEPs who may be sympathetic but rarely take regard of fisheries issues to the importance of supporting reform on this occasion.  We’re confident but certainly not complacent.

Once the Parliament has voted we expect the rapporteur (the MEP designated to take a lead) to open negotiations with the Irish deputy ambassador whose task it is to try and thrash out a deal that will be acceptable to both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers.  Compromises will inevitably be reached, but the rapporteur, German social democrat Ulrike Rodust, has done a good job so far and she will be no pushover.  Her negotiating position will be strengthened if reformers can secure a commanding majority on February 6.

I am expecting British MEPs of all political parties to be supporting the reform position on MSY and discards.  However, you might like to email your region’s MEPs and encourage them.  You can do that easily by visiting www.writetothem.com and putting in your postcode.

I shall let you know if hostile amendments are tabled, and if we need further help to try and ensure that they do not win support.

With regards

Chris Davies MEP
Secretary, cross-party ‘Fish for the Future’ group
Lib Dem environment spokesman

And my email to the MEP’s

FOR THE ATTENTION OF:

  • Robert Sturdy MEP
  • David Campbell Bannerman MEP
  • Vicky Ford MEP
  • Stuart Agnew MEP
  • Geoffrey Van Orden MEP
  • Richard Howitt MEP
  • Andrew Duff MEP


Eastern

Monday 4 February 2013

Dear Stuart Agnew, Vicky Ford, David Campbell Bannerman, Robert Sturdy, Geoffrey Van Orden, Andrew Duff and Richard Howitt,

I write urging you to vote to accept the proposed changes to the Common Fisheries Policy at the vote at the EU Plenary meeting on Wednesday. I think this is a hugely important first step towards guaranteeing longer term survival of fish stocks which is essential to protect the ecosystem the fish need to thrive and thus continue to supply humans with food.

Hopefully this piece of legislation will form part of a framework for sustainably fished oceans and thereby secure the fishing industries and livelihoods of the communities that depend on them for survival, and the associated services and businesses that support the fishermen.

Continued depletion of the fish stocks will ultimately be catastrophic for these people so I hope you will vote for implementation of the changes to prevent this and guarantee the future of all the European fishing industries.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Finn P. Holding

EU fisheries update 04/02/2013

In December I published a series of posts about overfishing and discard and moves by the EU to protect fish stocks from overexploitation:

https://thenaturephile.com/2012/12/17/looking-after-the-fishes-and-the-forests/

https://thenaturephile.com/2012/12/17/looking-after-the-forests-and-the-fishes-pt2-v2/

https://thenaturephile.com/2012/12/18/looking-after-the-forests-and-the-fishes-pt3/

The position at the end of December was that the Fisheries Committee had voted to recommend to the EU Plenary that controls on overfishing and discard should be implemented. The Plenary is scheduled to vote on this tomorrow and I received this email update from the European Parliament today in which the German Chair of the Fisheries Committee, MEP Ulrike Rodust, clarifies the position regarding the proposed controls and the ramifications once these are implemented. It makes interesting reading and I’ll report back when I’ve heard the result of tomorrows vote in the Plenary.

Plenty more fish in the sea? MEPs to decide on best way to tackle overfishing

 EU fishing stats 040213

MEPs will this week decide how to reform the EU’s common fisheries policy in order to put an end to overfishing while at the same time tackle unemployment in many coastal areas due to the decline of fisheries. Ahead of a debate on 5 February and vote the day after, we asked German Social Democrat Ulrike Rodust why she is calling for radical change in her recommendation to fellow MEPs.

How do you propose to protect stocks and put an end to overfishing?

My report, which was supported by the majority of the fisheries committee, will bring an end to the December ritual of fisheries ministers negotiating until 4am, neglecting scientific advice and setting too high fishing quotas. As of 2015 the principle of maximum sustainable yield shall apply, which means that each year we do not harvest more fish than a stock can reproduce. Our objective is that depleted fish stocks recover by 2020. One problem we have to tackle is the lack of scientific data: we will have to set up additional research and data collection programmes.

How would you address unemployment and related social problems among fishermen in coastal areas?

The good thing about ending overfishing is that not only nature will benefit, but also fishermen: bigger stocks produce higher yields. We will have to help fishermen get through the transitional period when there will have to be a bit less fishing for some species. What’s more, my group tabled an amendment which obliges member states to give fishing rights preferably to traditional small-scale fishermen. This part of the fishing sector produces more jobs and uses less detrimental fishing techniques most of the times.

Unfortunately, at some European coasts, there are simply too many fishermen chasing too few fish. Member states will have to reduce the number of active fishermen, but they should do this in a socially responsible way.

You propose member states close 10%-20% of their territorial waters to fishing within three years. Do you expect this to be endorsed by the Parliament and the Council?

The fisheries committee has already endorsed a general obligation for member states to create these fish stock recovery areas but without prescribing a certain percentage. My group will reintroduce a clearer obligation for the plenary vote. For the moment the Council does not agree, but our fisheries ministers will have to learn that there is co-decision and that the EP is a serious negotiation partner.

There have been negotiations to reform the EU’s common fisheries policy for more than 20 years. Will this reform finally resolve the sector’s  long-standing problems?

Ending overfishing and discards is indeed a historical change of the EU’s fisheries policy. Today the sector suffers a lot, not only because of the results of continued overfishing, but also because of cheap imports. By the way, many fishermen of the new generation support our plans. And we need the active support of fishermen. Fishing happens far out at sea, so you cannot simply rely on controls only. That’s why in the future fishermen will have a much greater say through the so-called advisory councils.

Looking after the forests and the fishes

No pictures in this post but I want to show you a couple of websites which you may be interested in showing some support for.

Two of the ongoing issues which I’m passionate about are conservation of the oceans and the forests. Down in Tasmania is a very courageous and dedicated lady called Miranda Gibson whose blog I found a couple of months ago, it’s called ‘TheObservertree‘, and in it she describes her last year living at the top of a tree in a forest in Tasmania as a peaceful protest at the destruction of the native ancient forests there. I was really pleased to see this week that Miranda’s stand was highlighted on the front page of the BBC News website:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20723455

Please check out the video and visit her blog to register your support.

And the second issue which is coming up this week is a vote in the European Parliament to reform the Common Fisheries Policy which if passed will ban discard and help to rebuild dwindling fish stocks. For any non-Europeans who may be unaware of what’s happening, the EU has stipulated how much of which fish species can be caught and landed. On the face of it a good thing you may think, but in practice what this means is that all the over catches are simply dumped back into the sea, referred to as ‘discard‘. Which means that many tons of perfectly good fish are killed and then thrown overboard, which is great for short term hunger management of gulls and other fish eating creatures, but completely insane from the point of view of maintaining viable fish stocks for all species!

I’ve been getting regular updates from Chris Davies, a UK Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament (MEP) who sits on the Fisheries Committee, and you can follow this link to the latest communication. If you feel strongly about the destruction of the oceans please send an email to one or more of the swinging MEP’s listed who sit on the Committee and ask them to vote for the reforms.

This is the email I sent to all of them and all the other UK MEP’s who sit on the Fisheries Committee:

As an MEP sitting on the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament I am writing to urge you to vote for the reform to the Common Fisheries Policy this Tuesday.

I believe that it is essential that the reform is passed in order to guarantee the longer term survival of viable fish stocks in order to maintain the health of not only the fish but that of the ocean as a whole. This is particularly the case as, going forward, the seas are likely to become more and more important as a food source. I believe this issue should be beyond party politics and the lobbying power of vested interests as it is much too important, and the fish stocks should not be squandered in the pursuit of short term commercial interests.

I thank you for taking the time to read my email and urge you again to please vote for the reform.

If you enjoy your fish and chips, and want to continue to do so, please send an email or two to let the MEP’s know how you wish them to vote.

Common sense prevails

The news is very good this morning.

It has been anounced that ministers are to shelve plans to sell off the 258,000 hectares of publicly owned forest. It appears that the massive volume of public protest has hit home at the higher echelons of government. That’s a great result. I heard last night in PMQ’s Ed Milliband asked David Cameron the direct question, “Can you tell us whether you are happy with your flagship policy on forestry?” Cameron replied, “The short answer to that is ‘no’.”. A very straightforward answer and probably the shortest one I’ve ever heard from any politician. He then chuckled and went on to flesh out his answer by saying the decision would be made at the end of the 12 week consultation period. Eighteen hours later it has been announced the sale is to be called off.

The Public Bodies Bill in which the proposed sale was to be passed into law is now to be amended and that will hopefully mean that this stupid idea can now be buried for a long time to come.

Another positive outcome is that a different panel of experts is to be set up to look into public access and biodiversity. I hope the experts are the right kind and can make sensible recommendations which can work in practice.

The only possible downside is that the government still plans to sell off 15% of the forest amounting to 40,000 hectares, but I hope that is the pine plantations which can be commercially exploited wiithout causing too much damage to the wildlife.

All in all, good news to start a foggy Thursday with!

Fen Drayton nature reserve

Before I tell you about my outing to Fen Drayton here’s a short update on the forest sell off. After denying they are backtracking, the Government has said they may reduce the amount of forest they are getting rid of. Plans to lose 15% of the 258,000 hectares of publicly owned forest are on hold whilst the government ‘re-examine the criteria‘ for the sale. I’m hoping this is government style smoke-and-mirror speak for ‘we’re deciding whether we should proceed at all‘. Time will tell. I think any reexamination is good news and maybe a sufficiently loud public outcry will force the powers that be to sit up and take notice of the vox populi on this issue, and maybe a few others too.

I didn’t manage a wildlife post last week, other events overtook me including the weather, which was blowing a gale at the weekend so I was struggling to see anything through binoculars and photography was completely out the question! So apologies for the omission. There were a few highlights from last weekend though: in a tree in the middle of a field behind Abbey Farm north of Histon I saw a pair of kestrels copulating – which is a fairly unusual sight but it’s good to know the local kestrel population should be increasing this year. Further round towards the Girton road was a big mixed flock of around 50 starling, a similar number of redwing and around 200 fieldfare feeding on the ground and as I was counting these a little egret passed over. I’d been told by a dog walker a couple of weeks ago there was one in that area but this was the first time I’d seen it for myself. Egrets are a comparatively recent addition to the fauna in the UK and they are slowly finding their way northwards in England. The first time I saw them was in the fish market in the middle of Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, so they have very exotic associations for me and it’s great to see them so close to home.

I set off fairly early in the morning yesterday with my friend to head for Fen Drayton nature reserve which lies between Cambridge and St Ives. It’s a former gravel pit consisting of twelve lakes and ponds which is currently managed by the RSPB. There is a big area of water here interspersed with grassland, scrub woodland, some older more established trees and plenty of reedbeds. So it has a diverse range of habitats that are managed for wildlife and is therefore a good place to see birds.


Far Fen lake showing the varies habitat at Fen Drayton

Despite raining on the way up the A14, by the time we got to the reserve the rain had stopped, leaving complete cloud cover, so the light was very grey as you can see from the landscape shot above. Otherwise the conditions were good: mild, gentle breeze and the occasional, albeit brief, moment of sunshine.

The omens were good too when on the way to Fen Drayton we saw a hare running across a field, and on the approach to the reserve three bullfinch including at least two males were flitting along the hedge just in front of the car. When we were getting out of the car in the car park we could here a cetti’s warbler singing and three green woodpeckers rose up off the ground in quick succession just in front of us.

As we stopped to look at a group of tufted duck on the small pond north of Holywell Lake a jay which we had watched fly across the field appeared in some dead trees on an island in the pond and started stripping big chunks of bark from the tree, possibly looking for food it had stashed there previously. Jays are amazingly good at stashing and are aware that their fellow jays do the same and so will keep a look out to see if they are being watched. If they see another jay paying attention to their activities they will pretend to stashe and then fly off and hide the swag somewhere else.


Four tufted duck – one female and three males on the pond north of Holywell Lake. Note the piercing yellow eyes and the crest

Tufted duck are resident on lakes and we also get migrants visiting in the winter when they stop over on rivers and estuaries too. They’re omnivores and feed by diving to the bottom to sift food from the mud. I think they’re handsome birds especially when they turn their yellow eye to look at you.

Constant companions throughout our walk were chaffinch and great tit. They were present in numbers in almost every tree or bush I looked in.


Chaffinch male in a tree singing for a mate

There were a plethora of other small birds including blue tit, wren, dunnock, robin, goldfinch and long tailed tit. On a bright day it’s now a good time of year to look for and photograph birds because they are actively seeking mates and there are no leaves on the trees to conceal them.


One of a flock of around 7 long tailed tits whizzing through the trees – they’re fiendishly difficult to photograph like that so this is as good as it got!

There was almost a full house of the five common crows – jay, carrion crow, rook – but no jackdaw. There were quite a few magpies though:


This chap was bouncing around the car park

Coot abounded on all the lakes but the stars of the day were the ducks of which there were many species including our common or garden mallard, shoveller, tufted duck, gadwall and wigeon…


A single male wigeon on Oxholme Lake

… but the real star of the show was the goldeneye. There were displaying male goldeneye on Far Fen Lake but alas they were much too far away to get a photograph. They are also resident breeders with migrants arriving in the winter months too.

Mute swan were present on several of the lakes and a couple came over in flight too:


The A380 of the avian world…

And as with all good nature reserves the wildlife wasn’t solely ornithological. This beautiful little fungus was on a stem next to the path.


Dacrymyces chrysospermum – unfortunately I couldn’t find a common name for this resupinate fungus but its sumptuous colour against the green lichen on the tree stem is striking.

All in all Fen Drayton was a great venue for a Saturday morning wildlife adventure and I’ll be posting from here again before too long.

Wildly inaccurate speculation

This is apparently what we are all guilty of if we oppose the sell-off of our forests to private investors, according to our Environment minister, Mrs Spellman. She is claiming that scare stories are being circulated such as the New Forest is to be made into a golf course and that is why we oppose the sell-off.

I don’t agree with her. The track record of this and previous administrations regarding the disposal of our national assets into the hands of people who have no right to own them has been nothing short of despicable, and has made me deeply cynical of any political claims that moves such as this are in the public interest.

It’s difficult to imagine how guarantees of public access or indeed any other guarantees will be, or can be, enforced in 10, 20 or 30 years time, regardless of promises made now. And the notion that millions of wonderful trees like the enormous horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) below, which have taken hundreds of years to evolve into mini ecosystems in their own right, will end up pulped to be made into loo paper, or even worse, The Daily Mail, is one I find profoundly upsetting


I fear we’ll lose many views like this if the forests go. What a magnificent tree!

There was mixed news on the sell-off today. The BBC were reporting that government sources had told the Politics show the plan was to be largely watered down or possibly even dropped, which is very good news if it is true. But on the other hand, the Daily Telegraph were reporting that many environmental charities will be unable to provide the financial guarantees required by the Government within the 28 day timeframe necessary to enable purchase of the forest.

This beatiful creature, a goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), needs the trees…
…and this one too, a waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus), especially after a long and dangerous flight from north Norway

I’ve seen a document from the Forestry Commision in which the financial value of all the woodland in the east of England has been assessed. Whilst it’s depressing that everything has to be reduced to a figure on a balance sheet in order that anyone with any influence will take notice, there are some big  numbers quoted which will hopefully help people to realise the true worth of our forests to the country. Fingers crossed.

Whilst I think there are significant chunks of Forestry Commission land which have been mismanaged I think it is better that they are managing the forests for the general good. And after the current, very public, debate, if the forests are saved I hope it paves the way for more constructive dialogue on how best to maintain the forests for the benefit of all organisms that require them.

Addendum 09/02/2011

On a global level regarding forests, some good news. Golden Agri-Resources, the worlds second largest palm oil producer has teamed up with The Forest Trust, a worldwide forest conservation organisation,  to work together to find ways to prevent rainforest destruction in Indonesia. It sounds like a long uphill struggle but at least global agri-business and environmental organisations appear to be working constructively together. Long may it last.

Our forests – update

Since my post of last week about the proposed sell off of our nationally owned forests I’ve been doing  some reading to try and find out the background to the sell off. It is apparently in line with a policy document published by the government in May 2010 entitled ‘The Coalition: our programme for government‘ which sets out the stall of the current coalition (but fails to mention they plan to sell off one of our last remaining crown jewels in the form of our forests).

This is from the consultation document published by DEFRA, and in the parlance of current political imbecility:

What are the policy objectives and the intended effects? The Government is committed to shifting the balance of power from „Big Government‟ to „big society‟ and ensuring that it is intervening in forestry in England only where appropriate and necessary. Part of the policy objective is to increase profitability of commercial woodlands and reduce net costs for running local and heritage woodlands whilst at the same time increasing public benefits through greater involvement of local communities and civil society bodies. The government will seek to protect and enhance biodiversity to contribute to a network of wildlife corridors, maintain public access for recreation and leisure, ensure the continuing role of the woodlands in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and protect nationally important landscapes.

I think it significant that most of what I have read in government and Forestry Commision documents seems to stress the maximisation of profitability first and foremost before listing preservation of biodiversity and maintaining the forests for public recreation as secondary objectives. This may be my jaundiced interpretation but I can’t see how, once the forests are sold, that protecting biodiversity can be guaranteed in the long term when the primary motivation is stated to be income generation and cessation of public funding for maintenance of our forests.

As with the previous sell off of publicly owned utilities in the early 1990’s, which resulted in significant chunks of the privatised companies passing into foreign ownership, it is difficult to imagine how the same situation would not recur with our forests. A foreign logging company is unlikely to be overly concerned with maintaining biodiversity in British forests when shareholders in their own country are demanding bigger year on year dividends.

According to DEFRA’s consultation document the plan is to sell off 40,000 hectares (approximately 100,000 acres – an area equal to a third of Bedfordshire) during the period of the current spending review. In answer to a parliamentary question from Tim Farron, Lib Dem MP for Westmoreland and Lonsdale, Jim Paice, Con MP for SE Cambridgeshire and Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, replied that total income generated by the sale of 40,000 hectares of forest would be £74.5 million. It seems to me that in the economic fiasco we currently find ourselves in that is a very small amount of money indeed. The value of what we stand to lose is orders of magnitude greater.

I think it is abject folly to go down this route and once the forest is gone it is gone forever, so I hope common sense will prevail at some level of government and this piece of legislation will not be passed. If you agree and you want to add your voice to those of us who don’t want the forests to disappear into private ownership you can sign the petition to oppose this by clicking here.

Our forests need your help!

I don’t often get involved in campaigns but this one is too important to pass by. You may have read in your newspaper that the government is planning to save money by changing the law to facilitate the sale of all public forests in England. The proposal has already been rejected in Wales and Scotland and I think it’s absolutely vital we achieve that in England too.


This is what we stand to lose

The new legislation would lead to disbanding the Forestry Commission, as there would be no more public forest for it to manage, which I can only see resulting in commercial exploitation of the forests causing enormous loss of habitat for thousands of species of plants, mammals, birds fungi etc.. The other inevitable consequence of our forests passing into private ownership would be the denial of public access to these wonderful and historic parts of our countryside.

This a dreadful piece of short termism in order to raise money now, with no coherent thought to the longer term ramifications for wildlife or people, except those who stand to make an awful lot of money for themselves from the destruction of our forests. In East Anglia the areas of forest we stand to lose include Horsford, north of Norwich, seven separate sections of forest around Thetford including Thetford Forest itself and Elvedon Fosrest, and in the south east of the region Sandlings Forest which includes Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich forests.

If, like me, you want to raise your voice against this latest outrage there is a campaign with a petition which already has approximately 160 000 signatures including some very high profile people and organisations including the Woodland Trust, the Confederation of Forest Industries, the RSPB, and the Ramblers. There is lots more information about the proposals and ways to oppose them, including signing the petition at the Save Englands Forests website.

You can also follow the progress of the bill (Public Bodies Bill [HL] 2010-11) through Parliament by clicking here, and a copy of the debate in the House of Lords can be read here.

You may also be interested to know that forest is free from inheritance tax.

Please add your signature to the petition and your voice to the campaign.