Over many thousands of years, the UK cleared almost all of its natural woodland cover. These forests helped to fuel our economic development and satisfy the demands of an increasing population for timber, fuel and farm land. But we paid a price; at the beginning of the 20th century woodlands in the UK covered just 5% of the land area, and little of this resembled the natural woodland cover. In the past century a million hectares of land were reforested, increasing the forest cover to over 10%.
In October 2019 the Government introduced a landmark Bill to tackle the most important environmental priorities of the age. In setting out its transformative Environment Bill it showed its commitment to protect the natural environment and allow future generations to prosper and to restore habitats, so plants and wildlife can thrive.
A key facet to protecting the environment is to restore and enhance nature through ‘biodiversity net gain’. This ensures that the new houses that are built are delivered in such a way to protect and enhance nature, which will help to deliver natural spaces for local communities. It is also sets out a commitment to support a Nature Recovery Network by establishing Local Nature Recovery Strategies and giving communities a greater say in protecting local trees. Add this to the Government’s commitment to establish new forests and target the growing of 11 million more trees, then the scale of the UK’s commitment to forestry further supports a more biodiverse environment.
Increasing the number of trees will not only provide more timber for building and protect the environment in more ways than just carbon capture, or produce the oxygen we require in return, or even enhance the much needed flood control; it will improve the ecosystem and provide a greater diversity of habitats for the indigenous wildlife – birds, amphibians, insects and mammals, of the UK.