We are the government department responsible for forestry in South West England. We manage the public forest estate (Forestry Commission woods) and we support the work of private landowners.
Forestry Commission woods and forests are open to access on foot (charges may apply for car parking at some locations or for entrance to Westonbirt Arboretum). Cycling and horse riding are often possible but are subject to local circumstances. We manage the woods and forests for a wide range of public benefits, creating and sustaining places that are attractive and economically productive. Communities and individuals are welcome to use the woods and forests, which are pleasant places to visit for active recreation, walking or just for relaxation. A few woods are leased, not owned, by the Forestry Commission and therefore may not be open to access other than on public rights of way.
The Forestry Commission's woods and forests are rich in both plant and animal wildlife, where natural and cultural heritage is safely looked after. We aim to do this as efficiently as possible, generating income to help pay for these activities. The public woods and forests in the region range from large to small and cover over 35,000 ha. Some are in the heart of the countryside, others close to towns and cities. All provide variety and interest.
We offer advice and support to private woodland owners and managers for planting and managing their woods through the England Woodland Grant Scheme. This helps bring wider benefits to the public than can be achieved solely through the public forest estate. We are also responsible for issuing felling licences and deciding on Environmental Impact Assessments relating to forestry operations.
More widely, we work in partnership with a range of regional and local bodies to promote and secure the benefits which woodlands offer to the region. Increasingly, climate change is an important factor in all our lives and we work to ensure that the region's woods and forests can adapt to changing conditions whilst also helping reduce the causes of climate change. This includes promoting woodfuel as a renewable energy source and increasing the use of timber in construction. Our work is influenced by the national strategy 'England's Trees Woods and Forests' and the Regional Woodland and Forestry Framework.