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Public woodland should stay in public hands

4 July 2012

Wendy Johnson
Media Officer

Public forests play a vital role for people and wildlife and should remain in public hands, an independent panel of experts advised Government today in a report that has been welcomed by the RSPB. 

The report urges 'greater protection and continuing restoration of habitats identified as being of high priority' and highlights the pivotal role that woods and forests have in our lives; in providing vital space for plants and wildlife, keeping people healthy and connected with nature, helping to keep our air and water clean, helping us adapt to climate change and driving a move to a greener economy.  

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, says; 'If woodlands are healthy and well-managed then they are one of our greatest natural assets, and we're pleased to see the report focus on making it a priority for new and existing woodlands in all ownerships to benefit people and wildlife. 

If things don't change, we will lose the diversity of life that makes our woodlands so special.

'But, whilst the recommendations are pleasing, they won't help if our woodlands are starved of funding and effective management. The report points out that we all reap benefits to the value of twenty times the amount Government actually puts in to public woodlands, which makes it an incredible investment opportunity.'

In a recent public survey asking why people value woodlands, wildlife was the top response. However, woodland wildlife is declining at an alarming rate, faster than almost any other habitat. 

Martin continues; 'We've already lost three in four lesser spotted woodpeckers, nine in ten willow tits, and more than half of our woodland butterflies and that's only a snapshot of the full picture.  If things don't change, we will lose the diversity of life that makes our woodlands so special.

'It is now up to the government to decide how to take these recommendations forward. We will continue to make the case that any changes must lead to greater benefits for woodland wildlife and for people.'


1.      The Independent Panel on Forestry was established in March 2011 to advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England and on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy. On 8 December 2011 the Panel published its progress report.

2.      For a copy of the full Forest Panel Report, visit

High-res images of woodland habitat and wildlife are available from RSPB Images.  For more information, please contact Wendy Johnson, RSPB Media Officer (01767) 693489

The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Find out how to get involved in ‘Stepping Up for Nature’ at

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