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Devon County Council and the Forestry Commission are joining forces to help landowners in Devon get the most from their woodland and improve the productivity of small woodlands.
A new scheme known as 'Ward Forester' launching this Spring aims to manage clusters of woodland areas together to achieve economies of scale, access new markets and ensure supply for the growing woodfuel market. Initially this is being set up as a three-year pilot project
By bringing together small woodlands in the same geographic area and deferring management responsibility for these clusters to a professional ‘Ward’ Forester, the council and the Forestry Commission believe this will make woodlands more viable.
Devon County Council's forestry advisor, Mick Bracken says:
"Whilst it may be difficult for owners of small woodland areas, say around 10 to 25 hectares, to manage their woodlands economically on their own, by clustering groups of owners together, the prospect becomes much more viable. One operation shared by several brings economies of scale into play, whereby everyone will benefit."
"Forestry management is important as it means that by thinning certain parts of a wood or forest, we can get the low grade material out which can be used for fuel, consequently more light is let in for the benefit of woodland biodiversity and it also encourages tree growth for the production of higher grade timber."
11.5% of Devon is woodland, covering 77,000 hectares and 88% of this is in private ownership. However, 60% of Devon's woodlands are under managed.
Devon County Council's Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Strategic Planning William Mumford says:
"The aim of this project is to diversify the land based sector and increase the contribution that forestry and farm woodlands make to the local economy, essentially to 'up-skill' the sector. It also ties in with our work for Renewable energy for Devon (RE4D) which encourages the stimulation of the wood fuel industry. There is significantly increased demand for low grade timber for fuel wood and by encouraging collaborative forestry, we hope to meet the demand from new wood fuel markets."
RE4D (www.re4d.org) will be supporting the stimulation of demand for woodfuel and providing expert advice on modern automated woodfuel technology. It will also be working closely with the SW Bioheat Programme, with its experience of developing the woodfuel installation and fuel supply chains(www.southwestwoodshed.co.uk)
Mark Prior, the Forestry Commission’s Woodfuel Officer for the South West, says;
"This exciting project essentially creates a new business enterprise in Devon which, as well has producing more renewable energy will benefit the health of woodlands, encourage our wildlife and help to produce more jobs.
"By creating a woodfuel supply chain in the county we expect more businesses and community buildings to use modern, fuel-efficient woodchip boilers."
Initially the project will focus on three key pilot areas; Teign, North Devon and Tamar where woodland owners will be encouraged to express an interest in forming 'wards'.
Woodland owners are being asked to get in touch if they would like to be part of this scheme so that their land can be ‘mapped’. This will help build up a comprehensive picture of the woodland landscape and how these pockets of land could work together.
To get involved, landowners should call 01392 382157 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with details of name, location, and the preferred method of contact. This will be followed up through one-2-one phone calls and site visits.
For more information, go to www.wardforester.co.uk. There will also be seminars and events and support literature to promote the scheme.
Woodland owners will be assisted in planning and developing their woodland and in making grant applications. This should then lead to a growth in the local woodfuel markets for their product and stimulate more new jobs to the area.
Mark Prior adds, "Everyone in Devon can be a winner with this scheme. It makes our woodlands healthier and more vibrant, it will produce more eco-friendly, cost efficient energy – and as a bonus it boosts wildlife and should produce more jobs."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Woodlands are actively managed for a number of reasons. These include maximising the yield of economically important products such as timber and game, as well as for conservation and biodiversity. Recreational access is also becoming increasingly important.
National Woodfuel Policy - The UK Government is committed to combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. In 2008, Government signed up to European targets to produce 15% of all energy produced in the UK from renewable sources and the recent Renewable Energy Strategy proposed that 30% of that renewable energy would come from bioenergy. Woodfuel is a sustainable and low carbon source of bioenergy that can make a substantial contribution to achieving these targets. For more information on national renewable energy and climate change policy visit the Department for Energy and Climate website, www.decc.gov.uk
Within the Forestry Commission, England, Scotland and Wales are working in partnership with many private and public sector organisations to help deliver these national bioenergy targets.
Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For further information visit www.forestry.gov.uk
MEDIA CONTACT FOR FORESTRY COMMISSION
Chris Johnson, Press Officer, Forestry Commission, phone 01223 346034, email email@example.com