Britain's disappearing forests

1/28/2019 | Marlene Stjernholm
Michael Boylan
With Britain being one of the least-wooded countries in all of Europe, trees and woodlands in the U.K. are finally getting the attention they deserve. 
Consider this startling statistic: Compared to the European average of 35 percent wooded landscape, Britain has only 13 percent of tree-covered land. This has many worried that the country could be headed towards a devastating state of deforestation unless something is done to reverse this alarming trend. 

Luckily, environmental groups are working together on a number of actions to reforest the country. 
Ronald Saunders
One such ambitious projected headed by the The Woodland Trust, in cooperation with the Community Forest Trust, is to create a new Northern Forest around the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.  Already home to 13 million people, this part of the country is expecting significant growth in the coming years, putting added stress on the environment and paltry 7.6 percent of forested land—far below the UK’s meager average of 13 percent. 

The goal for the new Northern Forest?  Plant 50 million trees over 25 years as a legacy for future generations. But there will be many benefits today as well—reduced risk of flooding, new jobs through sustainable management of woods, cleaner air, attractive countryside, thriving habitats, recreation opportunities, and beautified, welcoming communities. 
The Northern Forest is an idea whose time has come. Looking back over 20 years ago, a similar ambitious endeavour proved successful. The National Forest was created for similar reasons and has since blossomed into young, lush woodland.

Though the new Northern Forest it has received initial government support to start the project, the initiative is far from fully funded. Organisations are looking at potential funding mechanisms within The Clean Growth Strategy, a policy that is intended to reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere. 
Wayne Hutchinson
Creating new forests is only one focus in Britain deserving attention. Discussions about planting new trees, brought up the subject of protecting what is already there. In a country with many ancient forests, it is critical to save what is left of the UK’s ancient woodlands. Defined as any wood that is over 400 years old, these woodlands include extraordinarily diverse species. Yet they are also threatened by neglect and development.  

An overriding strategy for addressing Britain’s disappearing forests is getting people re-engaged with the woodlands. In recent years, the woods have been emptier than ever. The best way to help ensure the country’s trees will be here for future generations is to invite people in—to visit the forests and also to observe and nurture city trees. If people have the opportunity to get better acquainted with trees and woodlands, they will learn to love them. And in loving them, people will help protect them. 
The good news is that Britain’s woodland lovers realise they need more woods, of every kind, for everyone. 

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