Governance of community woodlands and forests

Governance in this context is about how decisions related to forests are made, how communities become part of this process, what they are responsible for and how they exercise their authority with other agencies and organisations.
Following devolution community forestry has developed differently in England, Scotland and Wales. Lawrence et al (2009) research paper describe how:

  • In England ‘community forestry’ often refers to management of new and existing woodland in areas of urban regeneration for public benefit, with community woodland groups often motivated by conservation objectives.
  • Social activism and policy changes in Scotland have led to a twofold model of urban regeneration in and around the cities, and community ownership and enterprise in rural areas.
  • In Wales community forestry has developed through efforts led by rural communities and programme funding, with results now incorporated into the Woodland for Wales strategy.

Community woodland groups and supporting associations described the ways they felt community governance and management of woodlands could develop at a workshop in Warrington.  The importance of Local Authorities providing opportunities for community forestry across woodland they owned was emphasised.

In England over 6% of woodlands are in Local Authority ownership, so research commissioned from Shared Assets provides an initial picture of the significant number of community woodlands and social enterprises working in partnership with them. 

In Scotland community ownership of woodland is enabled through the National Forest Land Scheme.  This has brought rural development opportunities to groups like the Laggan Forest Trust as well as the Psychological effects of ownership changing perceptions of what is possible within a community.

Research reporting to the Independent Panel in England in 2012 and additional work presented to the ICF annual conference, sets British community forestry in an international context. 


Anna Lawrence