Government announces panel to decide the fate of UK forests
The UK governments' plans to transfer all forests out of the public's hands early this year caused outrage among the general population. Over half a million people signed petitions against the selling off of any publicly owned land, such as forests and national parks, with 84% of people saying that they wanted the forests to remain with the public.
After all of the protests this idea was eventually discarded and the government promised to create an independent panel which would have as its focus, the role of deciding the final decision regarding such land.
The members of the panel were announced last week and it seems that there are already problems foreseeable for the future. There are fears that the panel will not represent the publics interest in the use of the land. This is due to the fact that many of the members did not oppose the governments plans when they were first announced and it has even been suggested that some of the panellists stood to gain from the sale of the forests. The one person it seems who will accurately represent the public opinion is the chairman, the Bishop of Liverpool.
The panel will meet with local organisations that are concerned with the conservation and preservation of the forests in all parts of the UK, taking on board their opinions and advice on how best to manage the forests. In addition to this the panel will also consult with users of the forests and parks, such as mountain bikers and horse riders (who are the two main groups that will be affected by the sale of these lands), dog walkers and families. It is essential that these groups are given precedence because if the forests are sold then it will have a direct impact on their ability to use them freely.
The final recommendations from the panel will be eagerly awaited by both the general public and the government. However, if the government should decide to pursue its original proposal then it could be facing an increasingly tough battle. Please visit the Woodland Trust for their own reaction to the news and to sign the Woodland Trust Continue the Fight petition.