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Future of Forestry Commission

On Tuesday 7 November the Government’s Forestry Minister, Therese Coffey published a ministerial statement on the Future of the Forestry Commission. Andrew Smith tells us what this means for the Forestry Commission.

Essentially from 2019 – the centenary year of the Forestry Commission – the Forestry Commission’s statutory remit will be England only.

It is expected that devolution of Scottish forestry matters to Scottish Government will have completed by April 2019. The Forestry Commission will be retained in England, and will continue to manage the 250,000 hectares of English public forests for public benefit – including the supply of timber, public access and the environment. The future Forestry Commission will continue to comprise of three main elements.


The part that manages the National Arboretum at Westonbirt and other public forests will, over the next two years, develop a new identity under the name of Forestry England. This will bring the opportunity to develop a more customer-facing brand and reach new audiences. Forestry England will continue its mission to connect everyone with the nation’s forests, by creating and caring for our forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. It’s likely that at the arboretum references to Forestry Commission will, in time, change to Forestry England.


Forest Research will maintain their cross-border remit, working in England, Wales and Scotland continuing to share information, knowledge and expertise with colleagues in all three countries. This is great news for Westonbirt as it means that we can continue our fruitful collaborations on tree health and tree science as well as pursuing partnerships with other academic institutions.


The third element, Forest Services, will continue to provide regulation, advice, support and guidance to the woodland sector in England as well as helping deliver government’s ambitious targets for woodland creation.


While there will be some governance and role changes at national level, the announcement of itself does not materially change staffing or activity at Westonbirt. It helpfully draws a line under some of the uncertainty that has arisen in recent years about the future of the Forestry Commission and provides a sound basis for taking our activities forward into our second century.

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