This House of Lords Library Briefing provides background information on the rationale for the Forestry Act 1919. It then considers comparatively recent government policy relating to forestry, before providing a summary of current arrangements across the UK and events planned to mark the Act’s centenary.Jump to full report >>
On 19 August 2019, 100 years will have passed since the Forestry Act 1919 received royal assent. The Act established the Forestry Commission following concerns about the condition of woodland and forests in the UK. The Act gave the commission wide powers to:
Today, UK woodland coverage is estimated to be 3.17 million hectares. In 2017/18, 9,000 hectares of new woodland were created, with conifers accounting for over one half (56%) of this area. England’s forest cover is now double what it had been in 1919 and forestry is estimated to have contributed £339 million to the economy in 2018.
This House of Lords Library Briefing provides background information on the rationale for the Forestry Act 1919. It then considers more recent government policy relating to forestry, before providing a summary of current arrangements across the UK and events planned to mark the centenary.
Today, forestry is a fully devolved matter. In Northern Ireland, the Forest Service was established as an agency on 1 April 1998 and leads on forestry matters. In 2013, Natural Resources Wales took over most of the Forestry Commission’s functions in Wales. On 1 April 2019, formal responsibility for Scotland’s forests transferred from the Forestry Commission to the Scottish Government.
In England, the Forestry Commission (Forestry Commission England) is currently chaired by Sir Harry Studholme. It describes itself as the largest single provider of outdoor recreation in England. The Forestry Commission England is also the country’s largest landowner, managing 250,000 hectares and maintaining over 3,000 kilometres of waymarked walks and mountain-biking trails. In addition, the commission has noted that England’s forest cover is now double what it had been in 1919 and that forestry contributed an estimated £339 million to the economy in 2018.
Forest Research, which describes itself as Great Britain’s principal organisation for forestry and tree-related research, provides statistics on UK-wide forestry. Its most recent release, published in September 2018, noted that:
As part of a Forestry England programme of events to mark the centenary of the Forestry Act 1919, Carol Ann Duffy authored a poem as poet laureate entitled ‘Forest’. In addition, Rachel Whiteread, a Turner Prize-winning artist, has created a sculpture entitled ‘Nissen Hut’ as a “permanent tribute to the lasting impact of the First World War on the British landscape”. Other events, including surveys of forest wildlife and running events, are scheduled to take place throughout the year. In Scotland, Scottish Forestry, established in April 2019, will shortly be launching a website to mark the centenary.
Lords Library notes LLN-2019-0066
Author: Thomas Brown
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