Panel calls for access to forests to be maintained

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PUBLIC access must be maintained to the national forestry estate which should set an example to private forestry owners.

Those are the views of the Government’s independent panel on forestry set up in March after public outcry over consultation on selling off Forestry Commission land, including Thetford Forest, to private bodies and conservation charities.

In its first progress report, published last week, it said: “We believe that at least the current level and quality of access to the public forest estate should be maintained, for the long term, and for the benefit and health of the nation.”

It added: “The managers of the public forest estate should strive to be exemplars of managing land for social, environmental and economic benefits, and inspiring other landowners to do the same.

“We want this expectation to be enshrined in how the public forest estate is managed for the future”

It also plans to explore ways of getting private forestry owners to provide similar public access and woodland management.

In his forward, panel chairman the Rt Rev James Jones Bishop of Liverpool, said: “Our investigations have shown us how important it is that we look at the future for all woods and forests in England and think how we can create maximum impact on a ‘triple bottom line’ for the environment, people and the economy.”

The panel’s final report is due in April 2012.