Bigger, Better Forests
Foreword by John Humphrys
Increasing tree cover in the UK is a matter of land use policy.
This simple fact is often forgotten amid a rush to re-forest Britain through multiple schemes and interventions. This seemingly overlooks the fact that silviculture – the art and science of growing trees – is just one subset of land management.
In the last 25 years, several government-backed new forests have been established or proposed, from the mid-1990s National Forest to the most recent ‘Northern Forest’, which is to stretch across the North East and North West of England. Though laudable and important (we propose a project of our own in this report), these schemes alone are not sufficient to address more fundamental barriers to tree planting, many of which are the direct results of public subsidies for a particular model of farming.
Trees, both as a source of wood and as providers of valuable services in the landscape, have been sidelined and inadvertently disincentivised. To put it another way, they have been undervalued in the market of land uses. To ensure their proliferation in sufficient numbers to help address climate change and biodiversity loss, public policy must enable market mechanisms that value the full range of products and services that trees offer.