Alasdair explains EIA's opposition to the sale of England's forests


EIA is going local this week. For over 25 years we have campaigned against environmental abuse around the world, from anti-whaling campaigns in the Faroe Islands, to tackling carbon trading in Europe and combating illegal logging and deforestation in South East Asia. Throughout all these campaigns the objectives have been the same – to protect the natural world and promote good governance of natural resources.  

Over the last few months we have been growing increasingly concerned about the UK government’s plans to sell of large amounts of England’s forests. The Public Forest Estate covers 258,000 hectares and accounts for 18% of the forest land in England. It includes some of the most famous woods in the country such as the New Forest and Forest of Dean. It also contains hundreds of smaller woods, many of which are vital to wildlife and the communities around them. The wildlife of Britain may not be as famous as that of Indonesia, but it is just as important.


The Forest of Dean copyright The Forestry Commission



Why would the sale be bad? Well there are a whole range of reasons, many of which are spelt out in greater detail here. The first though is that this land already belongs to the people, and should not just be sold for quick cash. The second is that as long as these lands are in our hands, we can have a say in how they are managed. Right now, for example, the Forestry Commission has a policy of converting dull commercial monoculture plantations into more mixed, open and natural habitats. That would stop under the sale, damaging wildlife and biodiversity. 

At a recent meeting in the House of Commons I was able to cross-examine a senior member of the Forestry Commission, where he confirmed that the Government will not be able to guarantee conditions on any of the land sold, despite it’s warm assurances. Once this land is gone, our influence will be minimal.   

Thanks to public pressure, the public forests tend to be better managed than private ones too. 100% of commercial public forests are certified to voluntary environmental standards, only 16% of private ones are.

Owning public forests gives us the opportunity to protect our ancient forests and to make the rest better. Let’s stop this sale, and then work for larger, more natural and more biodiverse forests in England.

With all this in mind, EIA has been examining ways that it can become more involved in the growing campaign to save England’s forests. EIA is not an organisation that everyone has heard of, but we also know that there are many ways to bring about change through research, investigation and public outreach. We are happy to throw our weight behind everyone campaigning to stop this sale and will be working with activists and charities to ensure be can build a secure future for our forests.






Alasdair Cameron   EIA Campaigner