Big Society in your local woods!

Using information from a new series of commissioned reports to investigate the motivations of UK volunteers and community-based organisations to take on woodland ownership and management

News from Forest Research: September 2010

Foxrush Farm community woodlandGlobally around 20% of forest cover is owned and managed by communities, with a further 5% designated for use by indigenous communities. However, much less is known about community woodlands in Great Britain. Forest Research’s Social and Economic Research Group (SERG) is using information from a new series of commissioned reports to investigate the motivations of UK volunteers and community-based organisations to take on woodland ownership and management.

Along with its own research, SERG has analysed the information in these reports on the number, locations, history, characteristics and needs of community woodland groups in Scotland, England and Wales. The data show that people’s motivations are many and varied, such as lifestyle, urban regeneration, realising community rights, and maintaining rural jobs.

There are some general differences between countries: groups in England are largely concerned with conservation and quality of place, while those in Wales and Scotland are more often involved in woodland-based enterprise development. A variety of institutional forms and partnership working arrangements have been identified, which show how important community woodlands are for delivering some of the key social objectives of national forest strategies on public (including Forestry Commission and local authority) as well as private forest land.

SERG have presented these results at a number of international events, such as the 2010 Commonwealth Forestry Conference and Forest Research’s own Trees and forests in British society conference last April. The synthesised findings will help to structure a stakeholder workshop in early 2011, facilitated by Forest Research, to discuss new opportunities for community-based governance and social enterprise provided by the Coalition Government’s Big Society agenda.

Further information or alternatively contact Anna Lawrence or Bianca Ambrose-Oji.

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This and other news stories can be found in the September 2010 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.