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Regional forestry leader appointed in the North East

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Canon Graham Usher

A new leader has been appointed to head up a forestry advisory committee for the North East of England.

The Rev. Canon Graham Usher has this month taken up his post as Chair of the Forestry Commission’s Regional Advisory Committee (RAC), having served on the committee for the past two years.

He is the Rector of Hexham Abbey, one of the largest and most historic churches in the region. With an in-depth knowledge of the region, Graham has served on the Middlesbrough Local Strategic Partnership and is currently a member of the Northumberland National Park Authority.

Having lived in the region for the last 13 years, Graham is aged 39 with a wife and two children.

He has a strong interest in nature, and enjoys mountaineering, beekeeping and growing vegetables. After gaining an honours degree in ecology at Edinburgh University, for five years he headed up that University’s Nature Conservation in Scotland Summer School before embarking on his career in theology. Prior to joining the clergy he was awarded BA and MA degrees in theology by Cambridge University.

The RAC chairs aim to bring together partners and advise the Forestry Commission, through Regional Directors, on the implementation of forestry and related policies at a regional level. The nine RAC chairs also collectively advise the Forestry Commission on matters of national significance.

RACs play a vital role in the delivery of the Forestry Commission’s mission to protect and expand Britain's forests and woodlands and increase their value to society and the environment. The committees play a particularly important role in the preparation and delivery of Regional Forestry Frameworks and Strategies across the regions. The also provide feedback and advice on the regional dimensions to the Government’s Strategy for England’s Trees, Woods and Forests.

Brendan Callaghan, Regional Director for the Forestry Commission in the North East, said:

 “Graham has an extensive knowledge of the region thanks to many years working in the community, both through his work and his many voluntary roles. Coupled with his strong interest and enthusiasm for environmental issues, he will prove a great asset to the RAC and to the Forestry Commission at a local and national level.”

Graham Usher added:

“I aim to ensure that the North East RAC continues to make an important contribution to the work of the Forestry Commission, by drawing together a range of diverse views from industry, landowner, conservation and recreational interests. I enjoy being in the forest environment and want to see the public estate well managed, balancing the views of all interested groups.”


1. The Forestry Commission is a 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.

2. RACs are statutory committees and members are appointed under the Forestry Act 1967. The RACs advise the Commission, through our regional directors on the implementation of forestry and related policies in each region.

3. Their function is to:
advise the Commission on the implementation at regional level of national forest strategies and associated policies, together with any expressions of these in regional forestry frameworks;
advise on a small number of specific topics and issues, which Commissioners will select, focusing on regional frameworks;
conciliate in all disputed applications for grant aid, felling licences or approvals of plans of operations under a closed grant scheme where there is a sustained objection by a statutory body; and advise the Commission on other applications when asked to do so by the Regional Director
inform the Commission of matters of regional or local concern on which the RAC considers it necessary to comment.

4. All RAC chairs are appointed on merit following an open competition.

Chris Johnson, Forestry Commission England Press Officer on 01223 346034