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What do you do if you own a woodland, but most of the trees are so hard to get to, you can’t harvest the timber? Not only is your woodland likely to be undermanaged, but you are unable to reap the financial rewards of owning a resource that’s in demand.
The Woodfuel Woodland Improvement grant – Woodfuel WIG for short – offers up to 60% of the cost of putting infrastructure in place to make it easier to harvest timber that is currently too hard to get to. It also helps to pay for woodland inventory and costs associated with managing harvesting contracts.
The Twerne woodland near Ledbury in Herefordshire – a 48.93 ha ancient woodland with mixed species including 50% commercial plantation conifer – has benefited from this funding.
As well as being managed to produce marketable timber, the woods are also managed to increase biodiversity by gradually reducing the conifer elements to 20% over the next 20 years and increasing native species. The conifer areas will be thinned for woodfuel and broadleaved areas selectively felled to produce timber, whilst improving the quality of the remaining wood.
Local Woodland Officer Wayne Barnes (pictured below, right) explains:
“Until a year ago, the site could only be accessed by a small track unsuitable for lorries. Extracting timber was time consuming and costly due to the distance to travel to the public road. Previous tree removal operations had also damaged the narrow track making it even harder to extract the wood.”
The owner applied for funding through the Woodfuel WIG to extend and upgrade the existing road to include a turning area, drainage and a more durable stone surface. Lorries can now drive straight to the centre of the woodland, significantly reducing extraction distance, time and cost. The total cost of the work came to £15,000, and the woodfuel WIG contributed £9,000 (60%).
The new road is now complete and work can begin on thinning the woodland again. But once we’ve paid out the money, what responsibility does the woodland owner have to stick to what’s been agreed?
"Before someone can apply for a grant they need to have a management plan in place,” says Wayne.
“This plan forecasts how much will be sustainably harvested from the woodland over the next 20 years and demonstrates how the management of the woodland meets the UK Forestry Standard. The plan also enables us to assess what level of investment we can contribute to a project, up to the maximum of 60%, based on a carbon value of the timber volumes harvested (this is a value attached to the carbon in wood and which is used to assess value for money of the infrastructure investment).
“For this woodland, the harvesting that is now possible should equate to a carbon value in excess of £103,000 – which is well above the £9,000 that we have contributed to the work.”
Since the grant funding became available in 2011, the Forestry Commission has received £8.71m worth of applications, with £1.81m worth of projects now completed.
“One of our key priorities is to bring more woodland into management,” says Wayne. “The Woodfuel WIG is just one of the incentives we can offer to help people do this. The management plan that supports Woodfuel WIG applications also benefits customers by offering 10 years of felling licence permissions compared to the usual five years.”
So what next for the Twerne woodland now that a larger area of trees can be reached?
“The owner will probably carry out some extensive thinning of the conifers once nesting season is over. Much of this probably will go for woodfuel, however despite the name of the WIG, it doesn’t have to. Our main aim is to ensure the woodland is well-managed. It’s also a great way of bringing more timber to market and supporting the growing woodfuel trade. This all fits nicely with the aspirations of Grown in Britain.”
For more information about the Woodfuel WIG, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/ewgs-wigwoodfuel.
Notes to Editor
1. The Forestry Commission 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. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/england
2. Funding is currently available for a very limited time under the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS), funded under the Rural Development Programme for England http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-6dccen
Forestry Commission England runs the EWGS to protect, improve and expand our forests, as set out in the Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/2013/01/31/pb13871-forestry-policy-statement/. EWGS is a part of the Rural Development Plan for England (RDPE). Further information about these schemes can be found at www.defra.gov.uk/rural/rdpe/index.htm
EWGS is coming to an end but the successor the New Environmental Land Management Scheme being developed is likely to have similar options. (http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/farming/funding/nelms.aspx ).
3. Media Contact: Simon West, 07769 881346 or Wayne Barnes 07833 154198