At last, the Save our Forests campaign has developed some teeth, and, unexpectedly, a brain. From some rather unpromising beginnings, an internet-mediated discussion has occurred, a kind of public consultation, if you like, taking place without the assistance of the government. The resulting emergent campaign has turned out to be impressively well-rounded.
Today a letter appears in the Sunday Telegraph, accompanied by an impressive front-page splash. Finally the issues seem to be getting some serious airing – and it’s perhaps no coincidence that instead of breathless hand-wringing about private firms cutting down trees (which is already how the national forestry estate is managed, mostly) the campaign now appears to take some account of the realities of forestry industry. It has also put clearly at the front of the debate the key issues of public access and biodiversity. It’s very encouraging that the campaign, whilst still quite diverse, has got itself into a position where it cannot be dismissed as mere internet crankery. And it’s only because of the doggedness of just those internet cranks and their many supporters that the story has gone as far as it now has. It has deservedly stepped off the social networks and onto centre stage. And it has done this without any central co-ordinating body. The Save Our Woods website now offers some measured statements which seem likely to chime with what a very wide range of objectors might be willing to stand behind.
We believe our trees, woods and forests are too important to be sold to the highest bidder. We believe our woodlands and forests play an essential part in the biodiversity of our country. We believe our forests are our natural heritage and it is in the public’s greatest interest for them to remain under public ownership.
They even go that extra mile and accept that sometimes, you actually do have to cut down trees in the course of woodland management:
Maybe some of our forestry land isn’t managed well in terms of biodiversity (as some “mono-culture” farmed pine plantations could be deemed) but it has its benefits in providing a source of timber to our construction industry among others.
…or maybe to make money to manage those other woodlands, as currently occurs. This campaign is changing pace, and has struck a massive blow today which, at present, seems to be close to a knockout. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Poet Laureate, Dame Judi Dench and Bill Bryson join with nearly 100 others and sign a massive letter on the front of a Sunday newspaper, suddenly there’s a message that even the most cloth-eared of governments cannot ignore.