Forestry Commission logo

What we do - how we work

Forestry is a devolved matter. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has responsibility for forestry in England as well as certain activities such as international affairs and plant health which remain reserved by Westminster. Scottish Ministers have responsibility for forestry in Scotland.

Forestry Commission England and Forestry Commission Scotland report directly to their appropriate Minister, advising on policy and its implementation.

What we do

• Manager – We plant many millions of trees every year, to create new woodland and to replace the trees we harvest. Some of these trees will help to regenerate blighted industrial landscapes such as former coalfield communities and to bring new woodlands closer to urban areas. 

We sustainably harvest almost four million tonnes of wood every year from England and Scotland's public forests. That’s more than a third of total domestic production. This reduces our dependency on imported wood and provides low-carbon materials for the domestic wood-using industries, and for fuel and energy. The income from timber helps to offset the costs of managing the forests in our care. 

As Britain’s largest land manager we are custodian of 900,000 hectares of land including some of our best loved and most spectacular landscapes. Two-thirds of the estate lies within National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

• Protector – The threat to trees from pests and diseases has never been greater. We face losing much-loved species such as oak and horse chestnut. Our plant health officers inspect wood imports at ports around the country to minimise the risk from foreign pests and diseases. Where outbreaks do occur our experts work with local authorities and landowners to contain and control any spread. We licence tree felling across England and Scotland to protect our woodlands for generations to come.

• Enabler and supporter – We provide grants, licences and advice to private woodland owners to encourage new tree planting and to help keep private forests and woodland under active and sustainable management. We also work in partnership with a wide range of public bodies, NGOs, small businesses and communities to respond to national, regional and local needs.
• Conservationist – We protect species, improve habitats and protect historical sites. As climate change becomes more complex and challenging we face losing some of our native species. We are leading moves to nurture and protect rare and endangered species such as the red squirrel, the dormouse and the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. We safeguard the national tree collections at Westonbirt, Bedgebury and Kilmun. These conserve more than 4000 different taxa – making it one of the most comprehensive tree collection in the world – and form just one of the ways that we are increasing the world’s natural resilience for the future.

• Restorer - We take degraded land no one else wants and turn it into green space for the benefit of all. Our pioneering research and on-the-ground experience has proved we can successfully, and economically, transform brownfield sites such as old collieries and factories into usable greenspace. This improves the environment, people’s health and the local economy by restoring places that people want to work, rest and play in.

• Leisure and recreation provider - More people visit a forest than do the seaside. We offer visitors many thousands of waymarked walks and trails, cycle routes and bridle paths, open every day and free of charge. We have more than 140 easy access trails for people with physical difficulties. In many places, the Forestry Commission provides the only local opportunity for quiet and accessible recreation. The millions of visitors contribute almost £2 billion annually to the economy, mostly into rural areas.

Our network of visitor centres provides a unique opportunity to engage with the public. They are an ideal platform to talk to people about climate change, helping them to understand the issues, see directly how climate change is affecting our trees and woods today, what we need to do to help them adapt, and what actions individuals and families can take to make a difference.

Management structure

Our Board of Commissioners  has duties and powers prescribed by statute. It consisting of a Chair and up to ten other Forestry Commissioners who are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of Ministers.

Our Executive Board assists the Country Directors in the effective management of the Commission by providing leadership and setting direction for the Commission as an organisation.

The Forestry Commission in each country is led by a Director who is also a member of the Board of Commissioners. Delivery of policy,  as well as progress against strategy objectives, are overseen by the National Committee for England and the National Committee for Scotland

The forests in our care are managed by Forest Enterprise agencies on behalf of the Forestry Commission.

Central Services provides a range of common functions and services to all parts of the Organisation. These include:

• cross-border functions, such as: Research, Plant Health, Corporate Governance and specialist advice,

• shared services, such as: Human Resources, Finance and Accounting Services, Information systems and Inventory, Forecasting and Operational Support.

Our Forest Research agency provides high-quality scientific research and surveys, to inform the development of forestry policies and practices, and promote high standards of sustainable forest management.


We employ around 2,400 people, most of whom work in managing the public forests.


Last updated: 11th July 2017