Long-term investment in skills needed to deliver Action Plan, says RFS

Amid support for the England Trees Action Plan 2021-2024 is a warning that planting millions of trees may not deliver on carbon store promises if there is not a sufficiently skilled and sustainable workforce.

By Wendy Necar · May 19, 2021

Christopher Williams: Long term investment in forestry skills vital."

The Plan, published in May, comes with a pledge to treble tree planting to approximately 7,000 hectares of woodland per year by the end of this Parliament (May 2024). It is supported by over £500m of the £640m Nature for Climate Fund and is part of the government’s commitment to delivering net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and achieving the goals of its 25 Year Environment Plan.

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) is the largest and longest established educational charity promoting wise woodland management in England, is a member of the Forestry Skills Forum and has actively contributed throughout the plan’s consultation process.

Royal Forestry Society Chief Executive Christopher Williams says: “We support the principle of right tree, right place for the right reasons described in the plan.  To ensure this happens, we need to make sure anyone involved in planting schemes has the required skills and understanding, which the RFS is well-placed to provide.  Without this attention to detail, all the benefits of carbon capture and storage and other public benefits from new woodland creation will not be secured.”

“Long-term comprehensive and linked skills and education policies, which go well beyond the term of this Parliament, are needed across all ages. We need to encourage school leavers to consider forestry as a career, to help FE colleges and universities deliver courses that support the foresters, researchers and managers of the future and we need to support apprenticeships into the future.

“Crucially, further outreach is needed to upskill experienced land managers who may find themselves planting or managing woodland rather than agricultural crops for the first time and to support foresters looking to climate adapt existing woodland using novel species or management techniques.

“We play an active role in the Forestry Skills Forum and we are committed to working together with other members to develop and deliver a new Forestry Skills Action Plan that will help us build a forestry workforce that is fit for the future. We will be looking at the fine details of the plan policy statements and collaborating with other forestry organisations and the private sector to ensure that the right skills, training and education can be delivered.”

There is, he adds, much to be welcomed in England Trees Action Plan but delivery of long-term achievable targets through public consultation on Environment Bill targets, expected in early 2022, will be key: “We are delighted the Government has listened to the forestry sector on the need for climate change adaptation in our forests and woodland and for the research to underpin resilience planning.

“We welcome recognition of forestry as an economically important sector and the pledge to encourage demand for UK-grown timber to reduce carbon footprint from imports and reduce emissions by replacing carbon-intensive materials.

“We look forward to seeing more commitment to bring many of the unmanaged woodlands in England into management. Well managed woodland is more resilient to pests, diseases and the challenges of climate change. While much of the focus is on creating new woodland, existing but unmanaged woodland represents an enormous resource with potential to increase carbon storage quickly and effectively by encouraging trees which are already established to grow better.”

Read the England Trees Action Plan here.

Together with the Royal Scottish Forestry Society (RSFS), the RFS has recently launched a grant scheme with offering grants to landowners planting new woodland or restocking woodland for resilience.  Details here

Forestry offers exciting career opportunities