Following the publication of the report the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that ministers had scrapped plans to sell off the forests. Caroline Spelman said:
"Our forests will stay in public hands. We will not sell the public forest estate."
"We'll be talking to all those who are passionate about our forests to decide how we will manage our forests for the future"
The report calls for England's woods and forests to be re-valued for all the benefits they provide. These include areas for recreation, clean air, clean water, and habitats for wildlife. They also lock up carbon, provide shade and can help reduce flooding. Wood is the raw material for timber frame buildings, furniture, flooring, fuel, and of course paper. The report calls for a revival of a woodland culture that appreciates how important trees are for people, for nature and the economy.
Commenting on the report the Panel's chair, the Right Reverend Bishop James Jones said:
"The Panel's work over the last year has shown that our woodlands, managed sustainably, can offer solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing society today. We have consulted widely, visited woods and forests around the country and read over 42,000 submissions."
"There is untapped potential within England's woodlands to create jobs, to sustain skills and livelihoods, to improve the health and wellbeing of people and to provide better and more connected places for nature.
"Government investment is now needed to kick start these changes which will repay itself many times over in terms of public benefit"
The following is a condensed version of the Executive summary from the Final Report itself. The Executive summary has 3 important straplines detailing the importance of tree and woods, and the benefits they bring in a number of areas.
[..] indicates where FOTF have removed some of the paragraph from the final report
[..]We want many more opportunities for more people to enjoy the health and well-being benefits of woodlands. This means incentivising the opening up of existing woodlands, and creating new ones accessible to the public. [..] The public forest estate, with its many and varied recreation and leisure opportunities, is an exemplar of woodland access in England, and should be sustained into the future.
[..]We call on Government and other woodland owners to give as many people as possible ready access to trees and woodlands for health and well-being benefits ? this means planting more trees and woodlands closer to people and incentivising more access to existing woodlands.
[..]Targeted intervention by Government is needed to stimulate growth in this part of the economy, to help promote wood as a renewable, low carbon product of choice for our buildings, homes and everyday lives.
England's wildlife network and ecosystems urgently need to be protected and restored. Some of the nation's most iconic wildlife depends on woods, trees and forests but evidence demonstrates real decline in this wildlife, and in the extent of ancient woodland. We need to provide a more resilient and robust ecological network to safeguard their future [..]. This means improving the condition of existing woodlands through sustainable management, expanding woodland cover, and restoring our most precious ancient woodlands and heathlands from plantation forestry. [..] Action taken now to increase the resilience of our woodland resource will help reduce the future costs of dealing with the effects of climate change.
[..] We call on Government to ensure that land-use creates a coherent and resilient ecological network at a landscape scale, by integrating policy and delivery mechanisms for woods, trees and forests in line with the principles in the "Making Space for Nature" report, published by the Lawton Review.
As part of this, we want to see woodland cover expanded from 10% to 15% of England?s land area by 2060, and the area of woodland managed to the UK Forestry Standard increased from around 50% to 80% of the total, over about the next ten years.
We want woods and forests to help us move towards a green economy in which economic growth and the health of our natural resources sustain each other, and markets, business and Government better reflect the value of nature. With only 20% of our timber needs met by UK production there is a big opportunity for the forestry sector to deliver more of what the domestic market needs from our own woodlands ? and to drive a revival of a woodland culture in England. Timber from under-managed woodlands could make an important contribution to meeting this need. Rising timber prices could lead to more woodlands being actively managed. The newly productive woodlands will generate new jobs and businesses, and a better skilled workforce, as well as achieving a wide range of public benefits.
[..] We urge Government, woodland owners and businesses to seize the opportunity provided by woodlands to grow our green economy, by strengthening the supply chain, and promoting the use of wood more widely across our society and economy. These and other actions should be set out in a Wood Industry Action Plan.
The report makes clear that the Panel believes the public forest estate is a national asset, which should remain in public ownership.
We propose that the public forest estate should remain in public ownership, and be defined in statute as land held in trust for the nation. A Charter should be created for the English public forest estate, to be renewed every ten years. The Charter should specify the public benefit mission and statutory duties, and should be delivered through a group of Guardians, or Trustees, who will be accountable to Parliament. The Guardians will oversee the new public forest management organisation evolved from Forest Enterprise England
The report details the importance of tree and woods, and the benefits they bring in a number of areas.
The Panel recommends an evolution of the Forestry Commission. The new organisations should have greater financial freedoms and investment to generate even greater benefits for people, nature and the economy.
To deliver the ambitions in our report, we need sustainable and resilient public forest organisations that will exemplify the natural capital approach to managing our natural environment
we see an urgent need for the existing roles offered by Forest Services, which currently sits within the Forestry Commission, to be significantly developed.
Over 42,000 people responded to our call for views, at the start of our work as a Panel in 2011
During ten visits the panel made around the country, they met many individuals, charity and community groups, all sharing a passion for their local woodlands
The report urges Government to report annually to Parliament on its progress in meeting the recommendations offered by the Panel.
The Panel's full report can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/forestrypanel/reports/
The Friends of Thetford Forest response to the IPF Final Report can be viewed here