Via Tom Goskar comes news that the UK government has announced the next plan to reduce the deficit. It is to sell the English forests. Every single state-owned tree is for sale, around 18% of the forests in England.
Gabriel Hemery has already examined the Select Committee Inquiry on Forestry. Here it’s clear that sale is partly ideological, that the private sector is the better solution for management of forest lands, and partly because the funds from the sale will help pay back the government’s budget deficit. DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has stated that they “will not compromise the protection of our most valuable and biodiverse forests.” Other forests that do not make this level of protection will still have statutory protection for wildlife, but Jim Paice MP, Minister for Agriculture, has accepted that such a sale could include purchase by overseas companies for the purpose of chipping for energy (p7-8). The government sees grants rather than legislation as the means to prevent this.
If the plan becomes part of mainstream political debate in the New Year, with the launch of the public consultation, then forestry management could become a highly polarising issue. The matter of whether the private sector can deliver the necessary skills to maintain the forests it likely to be lost in storm about rural forests being sold for the benefit of city bankers.
Gabriel Hemery is keeping track of the sell-off on his blog.