Bringing Woodland into Management: the missed opportunities in England and Wales


England and Wales are losing out on millions because of unmanaged woodland totalling an area larger than the size of the Lake District National Park. This is not only a wasted economic opportunity, it is a lost chance to increase carbon capture and storage and improve biodiversity; it is also undermining the health and resilience of these woodlands, making it more likely that eventually they will become derelict.

The government set a target of 67% woods in management by 2018, but progress towards that has been painfully slow. With just of 59% of woodland in England and 57% in Wales in management the target has been missed. This is despite the fact that prices of timber and woodfuel are currently at a 30-year high. However many feel that the target itself – which was never set as an end state goal or a limit of feasibility – should be higher and that 75% of woodland in management across England and Wales could be achievable. The National Forest, for instance, has over 70% of its woods in management and has a target to reach 80% by 2020. It covers an area of 500 sq kilometres and extensive
planting in the last 25 years has increased woodland cover in the area from 6% to 20%.

The gap in England between current management and government targets – 8% – represents a potential for up to £7.8m a year of additional timber and woodfuel production and up to 90 additional rural jobs. In Wales, where the gap is around 10%, up to an additional £2.2m and 35 rural jobs could be generated.

If 75% of woodland was in active management, the RFS conservatively estimates the additional timber produced would boost the economy by £20m and create up to 240 rural jobs across England and Wales. Contractors and processors would also benefit significantly from increased timber supplies.

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