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RFS and Brexit

Royal Forestry Society response to Defra consultation "Health and harmony: the future of food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit"

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 Executive summary

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RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd

The RFS welcomes new environmental land management policy proposals based on the principle of paying public money for delivery of public goods, and which adopts a natural capital approach. Woodlands deliver more natural capital value per hectare than almost any other land use and can play a central role in meeting the government’s environmental land management policy objectives.

Forestry is not only an environmental benefit. Uniquely, forestry also makes a significant contribution to the rural economy and productivity through timber and woodfuel production. Although references to forestry in this consultation are welcome, the almost exclusive focus of the consultation on the future of agriculture, belies the evidence that many of the opportunities to meet the government’s rural land use policy objectives lie in a larger, more profitable and resilient forestry sector.

The RFS urges a joined up and integrated approach to rural land management policy development which includes farming, forestry and the environment to realise the full potential for positive change this policy review offers.

The RFS recommendations to meet these objectives are to:

  • Incentivise land managers to bring neglected woodland into management under a long term management plan which commits to delivery of increased productivity, greater resilience and a range of site-specific public goods.
  • Increase the rate of woodland creation by ensuring the new environmental land management system fairly reflects the relative site-specific productivity and public benefits of agriculture and forestry.
  • Ensure the new environmental land management system embraces trees outside woods including agroforestry schemes which increase agricultural land productivity, diversify farm incomes and deliver environmental benefits.
  • Integrate policy recommendations in the soon to be published Tree Health Resilience Strategy and Forestry Climate Change Adaptation Pan to incentivise land managers to adopt forestry management practices which increase woodland resilience to anticipated environmental threats.
  • Continue to ensure land managers are not financially disadvantaged by the loss of productive woods to disease or environmental disasters, but are treated consistently with agriculture in similar circumstances.
  • Ensure research into improved commercial tree productivity and resilience is properly funded.
  • Recognise the vital importance of effective knowledge transfer to drive change and the government role to support an increase in the supply of skills required to plant more trees and manage more woodlands at a time when environmental change demands different approaches.
  • Support proposals which establish the new environmental land management systems as a simple, accessible and non-prescriptive process which recognises the true costs of delivery and the full value to the tax-payer of managing non-market benefits.
  • Measures must be put in place to ensure confidence for long term investment decisions in forestry are maintained during the transition period, and the forestry sector engaged early to develop and pilot elements of the new environmental land management system.


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