This is from last week, so it’s a little out of date as events on the ground have changed, somewhat (Imma catching up on my iPad app):
The Sunday Times – Charles Clover: Tim-ber! Down go the forest sale disaster myths
The disturbing thing is that the celebrities and politicians seem to know so little about the history of state-owned forestry in Britain
Not since the babes got lost in the wood has so much bunkum been spoken about a subject in such a short time as about the government’s proposals to sell off, or give away, English woodland. I feel partly responsible because I was away last week and this slot was filled by Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition, who clothed himself as the protector of the countryside and bemoaned the sale of “the physical heart of England”.
It was utter fantasy, for the truth is that England, in terms of land, is already 98% privately owned.
In terms of woodland, 82% of woodlands are private and it is unclear how the proposal to raise that percentage even in the controversial ways the coalition is proposing would damage irreplaceable national assets such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean.
Blabbedy blah, the politicians and actresses all up in an uproar…
The disturbing thing is that the celebrities and politicians seem to know so little about the troubled history of state-owned forestry in Britain. I don’t remember Miliband standing beside me when I was squaring up to a 60mph wind in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland, asking a man on a tractor why he was planting alien conifers in one of Britain’s last wild places. Miliband is too young to remember the tax breaks the monolithic commission used to persuade celebrities such as Terry Wogan to invest in forests.
I don’t remember the mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington at my side, either, when I was asking why the commission had allowed the afforestation of ecologically sensitive land on Llanbrynmair Moor, Powys — sold to Sir Cliff Richard as a tax haven. Even in the New Forest, the commission had a blind spot about planting native species. So I find it surprising that Bonington should claim the late writer and hillwalker Alfred Wainwright as an opponent of this privatisation. Wainwright hated the funereal shroud of sitka spruce with which the commission, a bureaucracy born in the Stalin era, clothed Ennerdale.
And finally, after a quick dig at the Arch Druid:
Just now, you would have thought, England should be asking itself what kind of woodlands it wants and how to regulate them. Its dozy environmental groups should be grabbing the opportunity to seize as many ancient woodlands as they can and arguing that repairable wildlife sites are heritage woodland. Instead everyone seems to be distracted by a daft, retro-ideological debate.