At the start of the new millennium, Britain had more than 12 per cent forest cover (9 per cent England, 16 per cent Scotland and 12 per cent Wales) thanks to the planting programmes in both state and private forests. Demand for wood products continues to grow, however, and Britain still depends on imports to satisfy more than 80 per cent of those needs.
Britain’s forests produce more than 8 million tonnes of wood per year, mainly softwood. All wood coming out of the public forests managed by the Commission now carries the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) label, meaning it has come from sustainably managed woodlands.
The timber industry had invested around £2 billion pounds between 1985 and 2000 to ensure Britain has world class processing facilities and it is reckoned that forestry accounts for around 35,000 jobs.
More than 70 per cent of all British adults have visited a forest and more than 350 million day trips are made to forests every year.
Many rare species of animals and plants live in forests. Conservation of species such as red squirrels, goshawks and nightjars and plants such as bluebells, creeping ladies tresses and Wilson’s pouchwort form an important part of a forester’s job.
The Forest Education Initiative brings together the forestry, processing and educational sectors to develop young people’s knowledge and understanding of trees and timber.
Each of three countries – England, Scotland and Wales – places different emphases on its forests. In order to achieve the aims of each country, the Forestry Commission now reports to each of the countries’ Parliaments and strategies are in place to develop woodlands and forests to benefit the different societies, economies and the environment.
New uses for trees and timber are being found. Clippings from yew trees are helping to develop new drugs to combat cancer. Wood fibre is being used by top designers to make clothes. Burning wood for heating and hot water has come full circle, and trees are being planted on former industrial sites to help clean up the soil and make those areas attractive again.
While timber production is set to double in the twenty years to 2015, demand is set to increase at the same rate. Our forests can help provide for these needs, and more, well into the future. They are being managed with long-term aims and life spans, to ensure trees will always be with us as a sustainable, renewable and natural multi-benefit resource.