The idea of a new Northern Forest is not new, and has been kept alive in the minds of smaller organisations including the Woodland Trust and local Community Forest partners. It is great to see, however, that this idea made its way upwards and the government is now behind it to create a ‘green ribbon’ of 50 million trees stretching from Liverpool across to the east coast (see below).
£5.7 million will be used to kickstart the project, which will include the creation of broadleaf woodlands and help to sustain existing forests. This part of the UK is only 7.6 % covered by trees, below the national average of 13 %, and well below the EU average of 25 – 30 %. This project has a 25 year span and comes on the back of poor planting levels for 2016 of only 700 hectares, far below government targets of 5000 hectares per year. The Northern Forest project will cost an estimated £500 million which will largely be needed to be raised by charities. This project will require graft and commitment, but the benefits to future generations will be multiple.
Where does the money come from?
Ironically the initial funds are coming from the HS2 fund which is clearly a political move to quieten opponents. HS2 will threaten 32 ancient woodlands according to Friends of the Earth, and the point is made that ancient woodlands can not be created in a short time span. It is also hoped further funds will be injected by landowners after reformed subsidies, post-Brexit.
A vision for the future
Despite the passage of HS2, it is hoped that this is the start of bolder thinking with Michael Gove as the Environment Secretary and that the long term benefits of woodlands are appreciated. Extreme weather events are set to increase – one way of helping flood management is through tree planting.