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Resilient woodland and forests


Ashdieback Canopydeclinelr Wn 220719

In June, we welcomed Defra’s Ash Dieback Strategy. Plant pathologist John Newton Gibbs, representing the RFS, had been among partners bringing together the evidence and threats to ash from Ash Dieback (ADB) and the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetle and identifying future research needs.

In July, we published a new resource in partnership with the Forestry Commission, sharing case studies from ten sites as they tackle ash dieback. Read the case studies here.  

Forestry policy

In January, we published a report Bringing Woodland into Management: The Missed Opportunities highlighting how many tens of millions of pounds in timber, fuel, amenity value and ‘public goods’ could currently be locked up in the UK’s unmanaged woods and forests.


In February, nearly 30 forestry employers, associations and educational providers, including the RFS, pledged to work together to attract the very best of young and new talent into the sector. The five-year Forestry Skills Plan was developed by the Forestry Skills Forum following the 2017 publication of research led by the Royal Forestry Society ‘A Forestry Skills Study for England and Wales’.

Woodlands in Wales

In October, there was disappointment that the Welsh Government’s latest consultation Sustainable farming and our land does not identify whether forestry would have the same access to funding as agriculture in the future.  Read our response to the consultation here. 



Forestry policy

Our Woodlands Are Changing Lr

Our Insight Report Planting for Resilient Woods in November identified that UK woodland owners are diversifying the species of trees they are planting in response to Climate Change, Ash Dieback and damage caused by grey squirrels. Read the report here. The report was covered by The Telegraph.

In October, in response to the Autumn budget, the RFS issued a position statement, warning the government had missed a huge opportunity to tap into the potential tied up in existing but under or unmanaged woodland, but applauded a £10m commitment to urban and street trees (part of the Government’s pledge to plant 11million trees in England) and its promise to set aside £50m to purchase carbon credits from landowners who plant new trees.

In May, we had welcomed the Government’s Tree Health Resilience Strategy. As a member of the Tree Health Group, the RFS was among organisations consulted by Defra in forming the strategy which feeds into the Government’s 25-year plan to improve the environment.

In May, we had also responded to the Defra Health and Harmony: the future of food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit consultation, urging it to use the opportunities that lie in a larger, more profitable and resilient forestry sector to help meet the government’s rural land use policy objectives. Read our response here.


In June, the RFS was among organisations supporting seven recommendations contained in a new report launched today, Agroforestry in England: Benefits, Barriers & Opportunities. Read the report here.

In January, we had welcomed Environment Secretary Michael Gove's plans post Brexit to incentivise farmers who enhance the natural environment, including planting trees but warned incentives must also include bringing existing woods back into management as well as to planting new woods

Climate change

In November, the RFS gave a cautious welcome to the government’s Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC’s) publication of two linked reports Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change  and Biomass in a low-carbon economy.

In September, The Forestry Climate Change Working Group (FCCWG), chaired by RFS Chief Exective Simon Lloyd identified 13 priority actions and pledged to work together on them over the next five years.  Read the Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation here

Woodlands in Wales

Welcoming the Welsh Government’s Brexit and our Land consultation in November, the RFS warned much needs to be done to put in place the skills and support necessary to enable the boost to local economies and rural jobs to happen. Read the full submission here.



Forestry policy

In January, RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd gave evidence at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub Committee inquiry into Forestry in England. He commented that the government’s target of 12% woodland cover in England by 2060 is ambitious without a radical rethink of the grant system and was able to raise concerns of RFS members that the window for Countryside Stewardship applications is very narrow and requires " huge amount of extraneous information, which is not necessarily relevant to the process of planting trees" .The committee session can be seen in full here, a full transcript of oral evidence can be viewed here and the RFS's written evidence to the committee can be viewed here.


In December, A Study of Current and Future Skills in the Forestry Sector in England and Wales was published with the RFS playing a key role on the cross forestry working group.  Read the Executive  summary here.

Climate change

The Forestry Climate Change Working Group met on 11 October 2017.  Hosted by Forest Research at Alice Holt Lodge, chaired by RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd, and attended by senior representatives from 24 organisations it focussed on the next steps in developing A Draft Action Plan.

Woodland in Wales

In August, the RFS responded to the National Assembly for Wales's Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee report Branching out: a new ambition for woodland policies and warned the need to bring existing woodlands in Wales back into management must not be overlooked by an emphasis on new woodland creation.The RFS also expressed disappointment that there was no commitment to funding research into building greater resilience into woodlands.

In April, the RFS had submitted written evidence to the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee of the National Assembly for Wales inquiry into forestry and woodland policy in Wales, calling for well funded and coordinated research for the development of management approaches for increasing forest resilience. It also highlights concerns about a reduction of forest cover in Wales and loss of staff with forestry expertise from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). See the submission here  

Woodland management

In August, the RFS warned the lack of any increase in the amount of woodland in management in England could threaten the health of our woodlands. The latest update of Forestry Commission England's Corporate Plan Performance Indicators showed the figure for woodlands under management has remained at 58 out of every 100 hectares for the past three years


In July, the RFS was among UK’s leading farming and forestry organisations to put their names to a letter to Secretary of State Michael Gove, highlighting the benefits of agroforestry, the practice of cultivating trees and crops or livestock on the same area of land. 

Pest management

In April, the RFS said an oral contraceptive for grey squirrels could be the only chance future generations of people will have to enjoy the benefits of fully mature English oaks and other broadleaved trees in our UK towns and countryside. It was responding to wews that research into a grey squirrel oral contraceptive by the government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in York has received an initial £39,000 investment from Defra.



Forestry policy

Grey Squirrel Crop 2 

In December, we accepted an invitation to give evidence in January 2017 to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub-Committee inquiry into Forestry in England. The RFS had submitted written evidence to the sub committee in October.

In November, the RFS welcomed The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy (QCC) which aims to create a global network of protected Commonwealth forests.

In March, we asked members their views on the latest draft of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard and fed them back as part of the consultation process.The views of the 64 members who responded can be seen here.


The RFS was among signatories to an open letter to the then Environment Secretary Liz Truss urging her to review support for agroforestry measures in England.The letter - available in full here.

Charter for Trees, Woods and People

In January, we joined a call to create a Charter for Trees, Woods and People to place them at the centre of national decision making, and back at the heart of UK lives and communities.




Resilient woodland and forestry

In July, the RFS was among organisations from the forestry sector, representing landowners, nurseries and forestry professionals to come together to take action to secure more resilient woodlands to benefit business and wildlife in a changing climate.

Grey squirrels

In March, we supported the National Forest Company (NFC)'s new Grey Squirrel Strategy and is looking forward to working in active collaboration with other owners to protect woodlands in the region from damage. The RFS's Battram Wood was among the first to be established in The National Forest, with most of its trees planted in 1999-2001.

Public involvement

The Chiltern Society and the RFS joined forced for this year's Grown in Britain Week, and called for volunteers to help with ride and woodland management at Hockeridge Wood near Ashley Green




Woodland management

In October 2014 we welcomed confirmation during Grown in Britain week of a Government aim to reduce burdens for landowners wanting to plant new woodlands and forests and of an increase of 7% in demand for British timber. But, with only a slight rise in the number of woodlands considered to be in management we pledged to continue to encourage and support woodland owners seeking to manage their woodlands well.

Public involvement

In July a call went out to all those who enjoy Hockeridge and Pancake Wood near Ashley Green, Buckinghamshire, to become more involved in its management and attend an open meeting at The Old School in Ashley Green.

Grey squirrel damage

In November 2014 we issued a position statement after the RFS membership identified grey squirrel damage as the greatest current threat to woodlands. Details of the RFS survey of its members on grey squirrels can be seen here. 

In October 2014, we welcomed a widening and growing discussion on the damage that grey squirrels are causing to the UK's much loved broadleaf woodlands following an article in the Sunday Times  on the Prince of Wales' plans to cull grey squirrels to help protect red squirrels and the damage grey squirrels cause to broadleaf woodlands. RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd also spoke on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today  on the need to work together to protect woodlands that are vulnerable to grey squirrel damage.

In January, the RFS had called on the Government and Forestry Commission England to put control of grey squirrels on a similar level of importance to that of tree diseases with more research, effective support for woodland owners and managers, and a programme to increase public awareness of the threat to the health of our broadleaved woods caused by grey squirrels.



Resilient woodland and forests


Ash Dieback Lr Credit John Morris

In October 2013, Sir Jack Whitaker, RFS President, warmly welcomed a tripartite report, A future withbroadleaved trees, as a major step in ensuring a strong woodland heritage for the Britain and Ireland.

Sir Jack Whitaker, who attended the launch at the House of Commons said:

“We welcome the scientific approach behind the strategy to use wide ranging research to develop improved broadleaved trees better able to survive threats of pests, diseases and climate change. By developing trees with higher potential timber yields it will act as an incentive for landowners to develop, improve and maintain woodlands.

“A consistent approach to how we develop robust and resilient woodlands is vital. As important are the measures included within the report to ensure that the industry as a whole is kept updated on improvements, that the information is easily accessible to growers and that those planting new trees are sufficiently incentivised to use improved species.”

However, he also added a plea for the existing threat posed by the grey squirrel to British woodlands not to be overlooked at a time when new pests and diseases are grabbing the headlines. He also called for a commitment to more liaison with European organisations involved in similar research.

In May 2013 we welcomed both a comprehensive report from the Expert Taskforce on Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity and Defra’s call to the EU to ban sweet chestnut imports from areas where sweet chestnut blight is prevalent.

The RFS praised a pledge from Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to start work on the report’s recommendations to improve procedures to predict, monitor and control pests and diseases, improve biosecurity measures, and communicate relevant information to woodland owners in a more timely way. And called for all other recommendations in the report to be implemented in full and swiftly.

The Expert Taskforce was set up by the Environment Secretary in the wake of the spread of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in the UK to consider and address the current and possible future threats to tree health.

RFS Development Director Simon Lloyd said: “It is encouraging that the Government is putting plant health on the same level of importance as animal disease.”

In March 2013 the RFS had welcomed a £1.5 million research project to identify Chalara-resistant ash trees, but appealed for an expansion of the ‘high priority’ area of support for landowners and for greater flexibility on the choice of species to replace ash, including partial replacement by non-natives and conifers.

In January 2013, The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) had warmly welcomed the Government’s response today to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s Final Report, saying they will provide the vital impetus required for a revival of woodland culture across England.

Simon Lloyd, RFS Director of Development, says: ““The expertise of foresters from the private sector will play a major role in promoting better and increasing woodland management across the country. A stronger woodland culture will be a major contribution to Defra’s ambition to be a ‘Growth Department’”

Forestry support

In July 2013, we applauded the announcement that the functions currently performed by Forest Services England – the Government’s forestry advice and grants experts – will remain a separate organisation rather than being merged with Natural England, but warns against further budget cuts which could impact on its ability to deliver the Government’s stated objective to protect, improve and expand woodlands.

RFS Development Director Simon Lloyd commented: “We are delighted the Government has listened to concerns and fears raised by the RFS and many others that any merger would take focus off the need to protect our woods and trees against pests and diseases and bring more woods into management.

“Bearing in mind the well-established economic and environmental benefits of bringing neglected woods into management, we urge the Government to focus on their ambition to increase woodland in management from 53% now to 66% in 5 years time, rather than on cuts which could threaten delivery.”

Defra’s Review of forestry functions and organisational arrangements for their delivery in England was unveiled to the National Forest Forum in London on July 3.

In April 2013, The RFS had been one of 13 signatories to a letter to Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, calling on him not to merge Forestry Commission England with Natural England or the Environment Agency. Read the letter here

In January 2013, the RFS had called on the Government to maintain a strong, focused Forestry Commission in England and warns that it would strongly oppose any merger with Natural England.

Forestry in Wales

In February 2013, The RFs announced it would be keeping a watching brief when Natural Resources Wales takes over responsibility for forestry from Forestry Commission Wales from 1 April 2013. Of particular concern to RFS members in Wales will be a smooth transition of the administration of woodland grants, the quality of advice available to private woodland owners and a vibrant business culture in which forestry can grow.

The society has also pledged to work with other organisations to ensure that the voices of commercial forestry and of private woodland owners are heard within Natural Resources Wales.

Director of Development Simon Lloyd said: “The creation of Natural Resources Wales comes at a time when there is expected to be a significant rise in the number of applications for Glastir Woodland Creation and Woodland Management Grants as former grant schemes come to an end. We will be looking to the Welsh Government to ensure that the processes are in place for applications to be processed and managed effectively to encourage a growth in woodland management across Wales.”


In November 2013 we sought members’ views before feeding back on the Government’s CAP consultations over support for forestry and woodland activities.



Resilient woodland and forests

Two experts representing the RFS were among 100 leading figures from forestry and government attending a key summit called to discuss the crisis over ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) on 7 November 2012.

The summit was chaired by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Attending from the RFS were experts Rod Leslie, author and Chartered Forester, and former Forestry Commission pathologist Dr John Gibbs. Read their full report here

In October 2012, we had called for clear guidance for woodland owners and managers wondering how to proceed with planting schemes which include ash among the species; sought clarification on how movement restrictions would be applied within the UK and welcomed  confirmation of a ban on ash imports.

In July 2012, responding to the publication of the long-awaited Final Report of the Independent Panel on Forestry, RFS President Nick Halsey said: “The Royal Forestry Society warmly welcomes the Final Report of the Independent Panel on Forestry and congratulates the Panel on a thorough and comprehensive analysis of English forestry and for providing imaginative and practical recommendations for the future of the industry.

“The RFS is delighted that the Panel proposes an expanded continuing role for the Public Forest Estate in trusteeship for the nation, and a greatly enhanced role for Forest Services, formerly the Forest Authority arm of the Forestry Commission, as well as a substantial increase in the forest area in England from 10% to 15% by 2060”.



Resilient woodland and forests

In March 2011, the RFS urged then Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman to encourage owners to bring neglected woodlands into active management and to provide further funding to develop robust solutions to diseases which threaten Britain’s tree stocks.

In a letter to the Environment Secretary, RFS President Anthony Bosanquet suggested future forestry planning should not focus excessively on new plantings, but on recognising good stewardship of forestry, and on encouraging currently neglected areas of woodland back into active management, to boost benefits for owners and for society in general. Read the letter here