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Forestry Commission

Forestry Commission

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The Forestry Commission is a non-ministerial government department
Non-ministerial government department
A non-ministerial government department is a department or ministry of a government that is not headed by a Government Minister or Government Secretary, and answers directly to a legislature ....

 responsible for forestry in Great Britain
Forestry in the United Kingdom
Forestry is the management of trees and forests for environmental or economic gain. The United KingdomThe United Kingdom is a political unit , the British Isles is a geographical unit , and Great Britain is the name of the largest of those islands...

. Its mission is to protect and expand Britain's forests and woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

s and increase their value to society and the environment.


The Forestry Commission manages almost one million hectares of land in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

, making it the country's biggest land manager. The majority of the land (60%) is in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, 26% of the landholding is in England and the remainder in Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. Some of Britain's best-loved and most spectacular landscapes are in its care. Activities carried out on the forest estate include maintenance and improvement of the natural environment and the provision of recreation, timber harvest
Harvest is the process of gathering mature crops from the fields. Reaping is the cutting of grain or pulse for harvest, typically using a scythe, sickle, or reaper...

ing to supply domestic industry, regenerating brownfield and replanting of harvested areas.

Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest. Reforestation is the reestablishment of forest cover, either naturally or artificially...

 was the main reason for the creation of the commission in 1919. Britain had only 5% of its original forest cover left and the government at that time wanted to create a strategic resource of timber. Since then forest area has more than doubled and the remit of the commission is much more focused on sustainable forest management and maximising public benefits.

The Forestry Commission is also the government body responsible for the regulation of private forestry (felling is generally illegal without first obtaining a licence from the Commission) and for encouraging new planting. Part of this role is carried out by providing grants in support of private forests and woodlands.

Organisational structure

The organisation has a Board of Commissioners with duties and powers prescribed by statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

, consisting of a Chair
A chair is a stable, raised surface used to sit on, commonly for use by one person. Chairs are most often supported by four legs and have a back; however, a chair can have three legs or could have a different shape depending on the criteria of the chair specifications. A chair without a back or...

 Pam Warhurst, and up to ten other Forestry Commissioners, including its Director General, who are appointed by the Queen
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...


The Commission also has an Executive Board which assists the Director General and Country Directors in the effective management of the Commission by providing leadership and setting direction for the Commission as an organisation.

Its current structure of separate Forestry Commissions for England, Scotland and Wales, came into effect on 1 April 2003. This structure allows the Commission to focus more clearly on delivering the policies of the individual Governments while still having the ability to take a Great Britain-wide approach to "cross-border" issues.

The Forestry Commission in each country is led by a Director who is also a member of the GB Board of Commissioners. Delivery of policy, as well as progress against strategy objectives, are overseen in each country by the Commission's National Committee for England, National Committee for Scotland and National Committee for Wales.

Proposed sale of Forestry Commission land

In October 2010, the Government introduced the Public Bodies Bill to The House of Lords, which would have enabled the Secretary of State to sell or lease public forests in England.

According to The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, "the news [was] met with near-universal disgust and shock". The same newspaper also quoted Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas
Caroline Patricia Lucas is a British politician. Lucas is the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, and the Green Party's first and only Member of Parliament in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom...

 MP, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, as saying it was an "unforgivable act of environmental vandalism". An online petition opposing the sale received more than 537,000 signatories.

In February 2011, after a sustained campaign of protest by groups such as the Ramblers
The Ramblers, formerly known as the Ramblers' Association, is the largest walkers' rights organisation in Great Britain which aims to look after the interests of walkers...

 and Hands off our Forest
Hands off our Forest
Hands off our Forest is a campaign group formed in 2010 to fight the UK Government's proposed sale of publicly owned land in the Forest of Dean. 'Hands off our Forest' describe themselves as a broad alliance of groups and individuals....

, the government announced it had abandoned its current plans and would remove the forestry clauses from the Public Bodies Bill. An 'independent panel' was also established to advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England, and on the role of the Forestry Commission. It is due to report in Autumn 2011.

Research division

Forest Research
Forest Research
Forest Research is the research agency of the Forestry Commission, a government department in the United Kingdom. Its core roles are to provide the evidence base for UK forestry practices and to support innovation. It has research and office facilities within Alice Holt Forest, near Farnham in...

 is a Great Britain-wide agency of the Forestry Commission which aims to deliver high-quality scientific research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

 and surveys, to inform the development of forestry policies and practices, and promote high standards of sustainable forest management.


The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of outdoor recreation in Britain. It works with many user groups to promote the use of its land for recreation such as hillwalking
In the British Isles, the terms hillwalking or fellwalking are commonly used to describe the recreational outdoor activity of walking on hills and mountains, often with the intention of visiting their summits...

, cycling
Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, or for sport. Persons engaged in cycling are cyclists or bicyclists...

, mountain biking
Mountain biking
Mountain biking is a sport which consists of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially adapted mountain bikes. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bikes, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain.Mountain biking can...

 and horseback riding. There are many such projects throughout Britain. A notable and successful example is its 7stanes
The 7stanes are seven mountain biking centres spanning the south of Scotland, from the heart of the Scottish Borders to Dumfries and Galloway. They are on Forestry Commission land and along with schemes in Wales are regarded as the benchmark by which further trails in the UK should be developed...

 project in Scotland where seven purpose built areas of man-made mountain bike trails have been laid and has proved very popular. Another project to promote the use of its land is Music in the Forest, an annual series of live music concerts featuring well known bands.


Britain's forests are a great habitat and species resource. Biodiversity conservation is an integral part of sustainable forestry, the Government's approach to which is detailed in The UK Forestry Standard and supporting Guidelines. The Forestry Commission contributes to the UKBAP by helping to deliver habitat and species action plans, notably, it has a lead role in taking forward the Native Woodland Habitat Action Plans. The aim is to enhance the nature conservation value of all our forests and safeguard special habitats. A series of Biodiversity Briefing Notes provide background on the UKBAP process and its relevance to forestry, and describes how the Forestry Commission is contributing.


Some of the forests managed by the Forestry Commission are:
  • Aberdeen Woods
  • Afan Forest Park
  • Alice Holt Forest
    Alice Holt Forest
    Alice Holt Forest is a former royal forest in Hampshire, situated some south of Farnham, Surrey. Once predominantly an ancient oak forest, it was particularly noted in the 18th and 19th centuries for the timber it supplied for the building of ships for the Royal Navy. It is now planted mainly with...

  • Bedgebury Pinetum
    Bedgebury Pinetum
    Bedgebury National Pinetum at Bedgebury, Kent, in the United Kingdom, is a recreational and conservational arboretum and, with the National Arboretum at Westonbirt, comprises the UK National Arboreta. It was established as the National Conifer Collection in 1925 and is now recognised as the most...

  • Dalby forest
  • Delamere forest
    Delamere Forest
    Delamere Forest or Delamere Forest Park is a wood in the Cheshire West and Chester area of Cheshire, England, near the town of Frodsham. It includes of mixed deciduous and evergreen woodland, centred at around , making it the largest area of woodland in Cheshire...

  • Forest of Dean
  • Glenmore Forest Park
  • Grizedale forest
  • Gwydyr Forest Park
  • Haldon Forest
    Haldon Forest
    Haldon Forest is a forest located in Devon, England. The forest consists of several different woods.-Management:It is managed by the Forestry Commission, who also manage other forests throughout the country.-Activities:...

  • Hamsterley Forest
    Hamsterley Forest
    Hamsterley Forest is a commercial forest in County Durham operated by the Forestry Commission. It is the largest forest in County Durham and covers more than 2000 hectares. Recreational activities are promoted within the forest and are focussed at the eastern end around the...

  • Kesteven Forest
    Bourne Woods
    The woods near Bourne, Lincolnshire, England. In particular, Bourne Wood.National Grid reference TF0821. Co-ordinates: O°24'W, 52°46'N.Bourne Wood is owned by The Forestry Commission England. It is managed by Forest Enterprise as part of Kesteven Forest...

  • Kielder Forest
    Kielder Forest
    Kielder Forest is a large forestry plantation in Northumberland, England, surrounding the reservoir Kielder Water. It is the largest man-made woodland in Europe...

  • Ostlers Plantation
    Ostlers Plantation
    Ostlers Plantation is a Forestry Commission owned woodland next to Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. It has public access and lies next to an open area of heathland, the Kirkby Moor Nature Reserve; both are noted for having large numbers of adders which have been the subject of debate.-Snake bites:On 18...

    , Lincolnshire
    Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

  • Rendlesham Forest
    Rendlesham Forest
    Rendlesham Forest is a 1500-hectare mixed woodland in Suffolk owned by the Forestry Commission with recreation facilities for walkers, cyclists and campers. Catering to enthusiasts of the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident, there is a special UFO trail....

  • Salcey Forest
  • Savernake forest
    Savernake Forest
    Savernake Forest is on a Cretaceous chalk plateau between Marlborough and Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, England. Its area is approximately .It is privately owned by the Trustees of Savernake Estate, the Earl of Cardigan, and his family solicitor. Since 1939 the running of the forest has been...

  • Sherwood Forest
    Sherwood Forest
    Sherwood Forest is a Royal Forest in Nottinghamshire, England, that is famous through its historical association with the legend of Robin Hood. Continuously forested since the end of the Ice Age, Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve today encompasses 423 hectares surrounding the village of...

  • Tay forest Park
  • Thetford forest
  • Westonbirt Arboretum
    Westonbirt Arboretum
    Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission. Westonbirt Arboretum is located near the historic market town of Tetbury in Gloucestershire, England, and is perhaps the most important and widely known arboretum in the United Kingdom.Planted in the heyday of Victorian plant...

  • Whittlewood Forest
    Whittlewood Forest
    Whittlewood Forest is a former medieval hunting forest in the south of the county of Northamptonshire in England. There are tracts of ancient woodland within the forest, and old ditch boundaries can be found at the edges of several of the individual woods...


In the 1960s, the Forestry Commission received a large number of complaints about its afforestation
Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest. Reforestation is the reestablishment of forest cover, either naturally or artificially...

 schemes. In 1919, when the Commission was created, it was given land with low soil quality – usually in highland areas. When the plantations were almost fully grown in the 1960s, nearby citizens complained that they were an eyesore. The Forestry Commission planted conifer trees, which usually grow to the same height and have a very dark colour. Since then, landscape improvement has been a key feature of the Forestry Commission's work. All forests are covered by a Forest Design Plan, which aims to balance the different objectives of timber production, landscape amelioration, ecological restoration, recreation provision and other relevant objectives. Forest management is a long term business, with plans frequently extending for a minimum of twenty-five or thirty years into the future.

Whilst early plantations were criticised for their lack of diversity, the Forestry Commission has been steadily improving the value of its woodlands for wildlife. The large blocks of conifer associated with the earlier plantings were beneficial to some species such as siskin, goldcrest, crossbill, most members of the tit family, long-eared owls, nightjars, roe deer, pine martens and polecats, but the greater emphasis on diversity now favours a much wider range of species, including broadleaved and open ground specialist species.

See also

  • The Big Tree Plant
    The Big Tree Plant
    Launched in December 2010, The Big Tree Plant is a Government-sponsored campaign in England to promote the planting of one million trees in neighbourhoods where people live and work...

  • Community Forests in England
    Community Forests in England
    England's twelve community forests are afforestation-based regeneration projects which were established in the early 1990s. Each of them is a partnership between the Forestry Commission and the Countryside Agency, which are agencies of the British government, and the relevant local councils.Most of...

  • English Lowlands beech forests
    English Lowlands beech forests
    The term English Lowlands beech forests refers to a terrestrial ecoregion in Northern Europe, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the European Environment Agency...

  • List of Forestry Commission land on the Isle of Wight
  • SEARS (Scotland's Environmental and Rural Services) of which Forestry Commission Scotland is a member
  • International Year of Forests
    International Year of Forests
    The year 2011 was declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations to raise awareness and strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations....

External links