Monday, 28 November 2011

A Christmas Message from ICF President, Fenning Welstead

A very warm festive greeting to all of you. After a warmer late autumn than for many years it has finally turned colder with a reported –5 degrees in Buckinghamshire. It has been strange to find hazel buds ready to burst and, in the garden, lupins are enjoying a second flowering. Did we put in the poly-tunnel to keep our vegetables warmer or to keep the rain off? It has been that kind of year.

In a letter to the Scotsman in July, I wrote about the deplorable situation that sees “production of timber” almost absent from forestry objectives. I was gratified to receive support for its restoration as a prime reason for forest management. It is a paradox that while the majority of new planting is for environmental purposes there is a simultaneous drive to bring existing woodlands into management as a means of increasing wood supply. New woodlands can meet environmental objectives and generate wood products for future generations, with public grant achieving public good on multiple fronts.

Talking to people in the energy markets there is a frequent comment that we have only seen a fraction of the potential re-rating in timber prices that this could bring. With this demand apparently on the increase it is vital that we establish woods and forests that have timber production as a core objective.

By the time you read this we may have received the interim report from the Independent Panel on Forestry. It will need careful reading and response. Will it reflect the changes that are required in forestry? Will it recommend that society needs to value the many benefits that trees and woodlands bring and suggest ways of doing this? It will need careful reading and consideration.

The recent announcement on the demise of the Forestry Commission in Wales will affect much more than Wales. Will there be enough of a critical mass in public sector forestry to maintain a Forestry Commission GB? And, if not, where will our research capability lie? The Institute may need to play a much greater role in professional forestry issues in future.

In Scotland we are struggling under the change that has seen forestry funding move away from the Forestry Commission into the arms of the agricultural departments. A better mix of farm and forest would undoubtedly be desirable but I’m not clear that we will get that if we dispense with the political clout of the FC. What is to replace it? I’ll leave you to ponder.

ICF is planning to debate these issues and more in our next national conference on Future Forestry to be held in London in May next year. Forestry policy in the UK is changing and changing fast. If you have views on the future – and it is your career, after all – then please, come and join in the debate.

To end on a positive note, it is my belief that we could and should be planting a wider variety of species, both in our citites and as commercial timber crops. In this regard, I was encouraged to come across a stand of young ash in a Galloway spruce forest where they were happily keeping up in terms of height growth, and where they would clearly yield a useful firewood thinning and, potentially, a worthy final crop. Yes, it was a small stand but it had been planted densely on a decent pocket of soil and the decision was bearing fruit. It might be time to dig out your Selection of Tree Species.

A Merry Christmas to one and all.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Independent Panel on Forestry Visits Northumberland

Last week the Independent Panel on Forestry visited Northumberland which included a visit to Kielder Forest. The local residents made their feelings clear with banners such as the one above.

The Panel spent an evening listening to local residents and organisations in Hexham on the importance of forestry to the northeast of England. This was followed next day by a visit to Parkend private estate to see biomass production, Kielder Forest and Egger panelboard mill, where we met representatives from the wood processing industry.

The Institute has submitted its views to the Panel which can be found here. More information on the Panel can be found on its website.

The panel will next be visiting various woodlands in Kent on 15 and 16 September, so look out for announcements on where we’re visiting and try to come along to a workshop. It is really important that you as professional foresters make your views heard.

Remember that ICF has set up a LinkedIn group for members only and I encourage you to join in the debate either on this blog or on LinkedIn itself.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Forestry Panel calls for views

  • Following the second meeting of the Forestry Panel, of which I am a member, we are now looking to join in a public conversation and hear views. The Panel wants to hear as many views as possible and wants to hear of the work of the Forestry Commission, public and private forest estates, the economics of forestry, public benefits such as well being, access for leisure pursuits and the role of forests and woods, and related open habitat in the wider natural environment. In particular we need to understand:
    • what forests and woods deliver for people, communities, nature and the economy;
    • what it is about forests and woods that people value so much and why; and
    • what works in practice and can be repeated in other locations.
    More detail on specific questions the Panel would like answered can be found on the website.

    Views should be sent to the Panel at by 31 July.

    The panel will also be making a number of visits, initially to the Forest of Dean, various woodlands in Kent and to larger forests in Northumberland including Kielder. Further visits will follow including looking at community woodlands in England.

    It is really important that you as professional foresters make your views heard. Many people value our woodlands and use them for all sorts of reasons but as professional foresters we understand what makes them what they are and most importantly how they need managed to provide the multitude of benefits to society.

    Remember that ICF has set up a LinkedIn group for members only and I encourage you to join in the debate either on this blog or on LinkedIn.
  • Thursday, 7 April 2011

    Forestry Panel has its first meeting

    Last week the Forestry Panel met for the first time under the chair of the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool.
    The Panel intends to produce a first report in the autumn, with final recommendations on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England in spring 2012. 
    It was rather unfortunate that the Secretary of State’s comments last week on sales of woodlands was misinterpreted and reported in a way rather prejudicial to the Panel, before we had even met. However, we’re very pleased that Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, confirmed to us that no future sales will be made from the Public Forest Estate before the Panel makes its recommendations. 
    The Panel will be going out and about on visits, and listening to and taking evidence from community and special interest groups. Most importantly though I need your views - as professional foresters you are the best informed as to the state of our woodlands and how best to manage them. ICF has set up a LinkedIn group for members only and I encourage you to join in the debate either on this blog or on LinkedIn.

    Friday, 18 March 2011

    Independent panel for future English forest policy

    The Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, has established the Independent Panel to advise her on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England and on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy.

    Encouragingly, I have been named as a Panel member. The Panel is chaired by the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool. The Panel members have a wide range of experience, knowledge and interests relating to the economic, social and environmental aspects of forestry and woodlands.

    We have an opportunity now to bring the collective experience of our members to bear in suggesting to government how it might achieve its goals while still maintaining forests in good condition and their management in professional hands - those of Chartered Foresters.

    We now need to hear from members with your views. The Institute will be considering ways to gather members’ views to feed into the Panel but in the meantime please send us your comments.