Welsh Gov U-turn: Shadow Minister welcomes the restoration of the 5,000 hectare per year target
Following the publication of a statement on woodland creation, the Member of the Welsh Parliament for Aberconwy and the Shadow Minister for Climate Change – Janet Finch-Saunders MS – has urged the Welsh Government to think ‘long-term’ by addressing concerns around inappropriate plantation and an apparent lack of engagement with farming stakeholders.
The Climate Change Strategy for Wales (2010) set a target of planting 100,000 ha of new woodland between 2010 and 2030, translating to a rate of 5,000 ha per year. However, when Welsh Government published its updated Woodlands for Wales strategy in June 2018, the strategy set out an ambition to plant only 2,000 ha of new woodland annually from 2020 to 2030.
The statement comes at a time when Welsh Government forestry targets have been lagging in comparison to the rest of the United Kingdom. In the year to March 2020, whilst 200 ha of new woodland was planted in Northern Ireland, 2,330 ha in England, and 10,860 in Scotland, Wales only planted 80 ha. Wales must plant 180,000 hectares by 2050 to meet the ‘balanced pathway’ set out of the UK Climate Change Commission.
Commenting after her speech, Janet said:
“We should be under no doubt that this statement comes at a pivotal time for Welsh forestry – in the year to March 2020, our planting and restocking rate was at the lowest level since the high of 1970. Similarly, forestry was classified in the CCRA3 report as ‘more action needed.’ “But in addressing these issues, the Welsh Government must look long-term. The Minister must clarify what steps are to be incorporated in the new fast-tracked NRW approval process to safeguard valuable open habitats from inappropriate plantation. We must also address concerns around the potential reduction in the future supply of commercial timber. “Given that about one third of the around 309,000 ha of woodland in Wales are found on agricultural land, I am extremely perplexed as to why the Welsh Government’s woodland taskforce has seemed to exclude the likes of NFU Cymru, FUW, and the Countryside Alliance. “The Glastir Woodland Creation Scheme has been overly complex and difficult for farmers to engage with. This is why I have used today’s speech to also call on the devolved administration to bring these stakeholders into the fold and ensure that farmers are properly rewarded for the establishment and management of trees on their farms.”
Photo: Janet Finch-Saunders MS/AS