Mixed Results: Latest Forestry Stats

The latest Forestry Commission Key Performance Indicators show a few encouraging signs, but also tell us there is much to do, say RFS Chief Executive Christopher Williams.

By Wendy Necar · June 16, 2023

There has been very marginal increase in woodland in England. Disappointingly, the percentage of woodland sustainably managed has seen little change, and the percentage of growth of trees in English woodlands harvested has deteriorated.

The area of woodland in England is just 1,326 thousand hectares or 10.2% of the land area. That is an increase of 3,000 hectares on the previous year or about 4 million trees. The figures are far short of the numbers that will be needed to meet government’s targets to plant 30,000 ha of new woodland a year across the UK. Read the report here.

Christopher Williams says: “The area of new planting in England is an improvement on recent years’ figures, but it’s still some way short of what is required to reduce our dependence on imported timber, become a net zero economy or arrest declines in biodiversity.”

“Uncertainty around the roll out of Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme is not helping. Farmers are unsure of the implications of ELM for their land and to their incomes. Foresters are unclear about whether grants available to agricultural land will also be applicable to land already designated woodland.”

“As a nation, we need to place the sustainable management of woodland on an equal footing to the importance of planting new woodland. If the incentives were right, much of the 40% of woodland in England that is currently unmanaged, could became productive. That would be transformative for many local communities, for woodland wildlife and also help the fight against climate change.”