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Our policies

The RFS is an educational charity dedicated to promoting excellence and the wise management of woods and trees. Founded in 1882, we are the longest established organisation for those actively involved in woodland management and forestry in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We believe bringing neglected woods back into management and sharing knowledge on how to manage woods to a high standard is vital to the long term health of our woods and trees. Our policies identify what is required to ensure our woods deliver their full economic, environmental and public benefits.

The policies are described below, or you can download the policies in a single PDF document.

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Six key policies:


Woodland management

Managed woodland enhances habitat diversity, better conserves plant life and other wildlife which depends on a rich woodland flora and better protects trees from pests and diseases.

Woods which produce sustainable quantities of quality timber, wood fuel and other products are better for nature conservation, better for people and better for the economy.

That is why the RFS is committed to promoting the benefits of a more informed and more active approach to woodland management and disseminating this message to the wider public.

Better managed woods are a higher priority than more woods. We encourage well-informed creation of woodland with clear objectives and a long-term management plan that takes a responsible approach to covering operating costs. Woods which are under-managed will, over time, become derelict scrub devoid of natural beauty, or high forest devoid of structural complexity and habitat diversity. Forty-seven per cent of England’s woodlands are unmanaged or under-managed. The Government wants 80 per cent of woods in management by 2050, recognising that this will deliver big economic as well as environmental benefits. The RFS is well placed to work with members and other organisations to contribute to meeting this goal.

Owners’ management objectives should be respected and not be distorted by conditions attached to grant funding which biases choice of species or management system. Grant funding should be available for restocking and creation, not only of pure stands of ‘native’ broadleaves, but also conifer/broadleaved mixes and non-native trees.

Conifers as well as broadleaves have an important role to play, both as a nurse for high-quality broadleaved timber, and in woodland ecology and landscape. A well-managed conifer/broadleaf woodland can have high habitat diversity and is preferable to a pure stand of broadleaves that is unmanaged.

We promote and encourage excellence across all types of woodland management. Owners’ objectives for their woods differ, reflecting a range of priorities and depending on the type of woodland under management. This includes small woods, community woods, urban woods and multipurpose woods. The RFS recognises that each has an important role to play.

High-quality hardwood and softwood timber production remains an important objective for the UK economy and requires a high standard of silviculture.

We encourage the Government to recognise the importance of silviculture, and inform woodland owners and managers of best practice with different silvicultural systems.

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Pests and diseases

The long term resilience of our woods requires a range of management systems, diversity of species and variety within species and the inclusion of exotic or non-native species where they are proven to be suitable to local site conditions. The emphasis on replacing conifers with native broadleaves has reduced resilience and risked the UK’s long-term capability to produce quality timber, increasing reliance on imports. The RFS has played a leading role in the development of the Climate Change Accord: a call for resilient woods, forests and trees

Policies which strengthen biosecurity are vital to protect UK woods from disease. We will promote policies that encourage owners to source UK-grown trees and oblige nursery owners to provide buyers with information on seed provenance that enables informed buying decisions. We will seek an improved early disease detection system and faster dissemination of information to woodland owners to advise on actions they can take to detect and mitigate the impact of pests and diseases.

The Government must prioritise funding of research into understanding, controlling and slowing the spread of tree diseases, improving the genetic resistance of vulnerable tree species to disease.

The non-native invasive grey squirrel represents a huge threat to the health of UK woods and, in particularly the production of quality hardwood, as well as having a devastating impact on the native red squirrels. We believe the threat needs to be addressed through effective measures to reduce the grey squirrel population, the development of effective woodland planning to deter populations, and more research to prevent squirrels damaging trees. In addition, the RFS supports measures to help the general public understand the importance of grey squirrel control. The RFS is a signatory of the UK Squirrel Accord and a member of the Accord committee

The RFS supports the work of the European Squirrel Initiative and will work with Government, Forestry Commission England (FCE) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to develop policies that properly reflect the threat posed by grey squirrels and encourage more woodland owners to manage the risk of damage and control grey squirrel populations.

Control of wild deer populations is required to prevent extensive damage to woods. The RFS supports the principles of the Deer Initiative Accord and will encourage policies which support its implementation.

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Woodland economics

More woods will be managed if there is a financial incentive to do so and an expectation of a financial return to the owner. We support measures which facilitate the development of strong markets for UK-grown timber, wood fuel and non-timber products. We respect and support the right of woodland owners to generate income from their woods from country pursuits and game management.

Supporting British timber production for construction and other wood-related markets is good for the UK economy, and good for job creation in rural communities.

The UK imports 70 per cent of its softwood timber requirements and is the third largest net importer of wood products behind China and Japan.

Forestry provides many non-market ecosystem services such as climate change mitigation, flood control, habitat conservation and landscape enhancement. These should be supported by public finances where it is not possible to establish a market incentive to deliver these services.

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Advice and regulations

A strong Forest Services (FS) organisation is essential to provide woodland owners with the necessary level of support and guidance to manage their woods to a good standard.

We will seek a reduction in the regulatory burden required to access grant funding, which is a barrier to owners’ engagement, and an increase in FS front line resources to support woodland owners with expert, current and well informed advice.


We strongly encourage and support measures which prioritise the FS role of facilitating public–private sector partnerships to better protect and improve Britain’s woods.

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Public access to privately owned woods should be voluntary. Owner should be given unbiased information on the costs and benefits of public access and allowed to make an informed decision. Public funding should be available to support this non-market public benefit.

Among RFS members there are many excellent and widely varied examples of public access that work well for all parties alongside the owners’ other woodland objectives.


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Forestry skills

A healthy forestry sector requires a growing supply of skilled workers at all levels.

We will work with further and higher education colleges and awarding bodies to encourage forestry and arboriculture students into the industry through provision of bursaries, awards, work experience, apprenticeships and careers guidance. 


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