The Welsh Government is running a consultation on Forestry And Woodland Policy In Wales. Details here; you have until 7 April 2017 to respond. Here are a few points we made.
Responding to climate change – coping with climate change and helping reduce our carbon footprint
Prevent all building on greenfield sites. Protect current green spaces, whether agricultural or not, from development and housing; new housing should only be on existing and brownfield sites.
Cease all new road-building. Discourage car use; create a nationalised, fast, cheap, reliable, regular and connected public transport system that is better than using cars.
Make sure very new development in Wales, of any kind, must include wildlife areas – trees, bushes, flowers and so on, planted in the earth (not sterile pots, which are just ornamental). They need to be connected up to provide wildlife corridors.
Implement a policy to create X amount of new woodland in Wales every year.
Woodlands for people – serving local needs for health, education and jobs
Wales should move away from (and reduce funding for) animal farming. Hillsides should be used for woodland instead. Divest money from animal farming to plant and tree agriculture. Upland areas to be used more extensively for tree crops. Diversify for fruit and tree species (once sheep are no longer grazing, land will regenerate); wood crops for the wood.
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization highlights the large amount of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. To seriously limit climate change we need to reduce livestock numbers. Produce more GHG than transport (2006 report, and update in 2013.)
Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute) report ‘Changing climate: changing diets’ recommends reducing meat consumption: “Reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below the ‘danger level’ of two degrees Celsius, the main goal of the climate negotiations in Paris.” The report notes that governments must lead this through behavioural change and policies. “Our research found a general belief across cultures and continents that it is the role of government to spearhead efforts to address unsustainable consumption of meat. Governments overestimate the risk of public backlash and their inaction signals to publics that the issue is unimportant or undeserving of concern.”
Oxford Martin School research found adoption of vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by 63% and make people healthier too.
The Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain project produced research reports detailing what can be done to get Britain’s carbon emissions down. They looked at land and diet and recommended changes including double forest area, grow own biomass fuel, grow more of UK’s food supply, more biodiversity, more protected areas and reduce meat diet to replace with plant based foods.
Consider alternative land uses e.g. green burial sites in every county where trees and bushes are planted on the graves instead of sterile headstones, so new woods are created whilst saving resources. This benefits humans, the environment, efficient space use, creates attractive places for visiting the dead, protects woodland for the future, and many other benefits.
A competitive and integrated forest sector – innovative, skilled industries supplying renewable products from Wales
Currently Natural Resources Wales bases its forestry around fast-growing non-native species, and clear-cuts huge areas at once. I sometimes cycle round Wales and have seen the devastation NRW causes when once-forested hillsides are stripped bare and left dead, stumps and mud with no wildlife potential. It is a form of vandalism on the landscape. That policy has to change. All the NRW-managed woodland should be a mix of native trees, those best for wildlife; and instead of clear-cutting, they should be sensitively coppiced. So, for example, instead of cutting down every tree on a hillside, they could be carefully managed and only 10% cut down (not all from one place). Then the overall habitat survives and new growth can fill the spaces. This would prevent destruction of whole habitats, soil erosion, ugly hillsides (which will have a negative effect on tourism). Instead it will increase biodiversity, tourism potential, and benefit many other policies. The NRW has mis-managed our woodlands for far too long. (This answer may belong to the next section instead – if so, please consider it there too).
Environmental quality – making a positive contribution to biodiversity, landscapes and heritage, and reducing other environmental pressures
Rewilding landscapes to save communities: rewilding is a positive, pro-active view of conservation that involves returning a suite of species to landscapes to restore the ecological processes that once occurred there. Rewilding has gathered huge followings in North America (Yellowstone for example), southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It has even some examples in the UK (Scottish beaver trial, Knapdale, Alladale, etc).
There are a suite of reasonably innocuous species that could easily be restored to our rural landscapes - things like beavers, pine marten, dormice, etc. There are others that would be more challenging - lynx or wolves. All of these species require adequate habitat - largely woodland - so substantial reforestation would be necessary, which has associated carbon storage and biodiversity benefits.
Rewilding also offers new opportunities to save rural communities. With the removal of subsidies for many agricultural practices, upland farming seems unlikely to survive. Analyses in South Africa showed that ecotourism yielded 4 times the profit and employed 5 times more people than low productive pastoralism. These communities could turn to ecotourism to remain economically viable.
Why the contribution is important: rewilding could solve the economic crisis of rural communities by offering alternative livelihoods to those currently available (and heavily reliant upon subsidies). Rewilding also offers opportunities to improve the status of biodiversity throughout Wales.
Rewilding is good, also requires restricting human expansion to protect areas. I think we should restrict human expansion, but the Welsh and UK Governments encourage road building, increased housing (often unnecessary) etc, while doing nothing about population growth. Urban areas just keep growing. Rewilding policies should run hand in hand with reducing human impact. The Governments should really switch tactics to protecting and end encouraging wildlife, not setting ridiculous high house-building targets which end destroying greenfield sites 99% of the time.