In Australia the general trend is for governments to lock-up more and more forest often through the conversion of land managed as forest reserve into national park. The conversion of land into national park is often accompanied by a reduction in the level of active management of the area.
Australia has vast areas of both forest reserve and forest in national parks. Not so in the United Kingdom where there are only 15 national parks and a relatively small area of state owned forest commission.
Now, in the UK, the new conservative government is planning to sell-off the state-owned forest commission estate and apparently without placing caveats on how this land is used after its sale.
According to The Guardian’s environment blog late last year:
“We now know, thanks to the junior environment minister Jim Paice’s frank evidence to a recent House of Lords select committee, that the government is considering the sale of not just “some”, or even “substantial”, amounts of woodland as the public was originally led to believe, but of all state-owned English trees across the commission’s 635,000-acre Forestry Commission estate. This includes many royal forests, state-owned ancient woodlands, sites of special scientific interest, heathland, campsites, farms and sporting estates.”
Various campaigns have sprung up and it was recently report that the National Trust is planning to buy much or the forest:
“The initiative, says the trust’s director, Dame Fiona Reynolds, could protect in perpetuity not just large areas of heritage areas such as the Forest of Dean and the New Forest, but other woodland expected to be offered for sale to communities and commercial enterprises in the biggest change in land ownership for more than 80 years.”
What is it that governments in Australia and the UK no longer want a part in forestry – they don’t want to be involved in active land management – perhaps reflecting the popular mood which sees such areas as either wilderness or with commercial potential – but not able to reconcile that they can be a source of income and recreation and wildlife refuges and have historically been successfully managed as such by government forestry services?