People urged to speak out to save woods from cuts
People are urged to speak out if they want to permanently secure the region’s woodlands against cuts, a community group has warned.
Chair of the Friends of Thetford Forest, Anne Mason, encouraged people to write to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in a bid to secure the current budget allocated to the Forestry Commission.
This, she said, was currently under review, with the possibility of a reduction from �20 to �18m, but feared people believed the forest estate to now be safe following a report by an independent panel earlier this year.
Recommendations from the panel, which was set up when the government shelved a proposal to sell off large swathes of woodland earlier this year, included expanding and protecting the country’s woodland and increasing the Forestry Commission’s annual budget to �22m. These have not yet been adopted by the government, however, which is considering the proposals.
Mrs Mason spoke out following a visit by environment secretary David Heath, who met with the commission and Friends at Thetford Forest last week.
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“We explained our concerns about the funding to the minister and that if it’s cut, which is being proposed at the moment, it might go down to �18m,” she said. “He did say he was determined to visit a forest at work before he made any decision and I think that was encouraging but we’re still encouraging the public to write to DEFRA to say ‘we want a fully-resourced public forest.”
She added that the Forestry Commission would not be able to provide a full service if funding was cut.
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“Walking trails couldn’t be maintained and things like toilets would have to close” she said. “They would have to close the car parks and there would be fewer litter collections - It would be public access that would suffer. The Forestry Commission does so much for the public, that’s why they deserve public money - we have to have a public forest estate in perpetuity.”