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382 million reasons for protecting and developing Welsh woodlands
The Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones, yesterday launched draft plans which will leads towards fulfilling the One Wales commitment of creating a Welsh National Forest of native trees. There are currently 382 million trees in Wales but the Assembly Government is working to ensure that woodlands in Wales can meet the challenges of the 21st century – particularly climate change.
The Minister will be speaking at the launch of a 12-week public consultation on the revision of Woodlands for Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Woodland Strategy, at the Forestry Commission pavilion, Royal Welsh Show.
The publication of the consultation gives the opportunity to re-assess the current strategy in light of the One Wales commitment to create a Welsh National Forest to act as a carbon sink, and to consider how trees and woodlands can help further the Assembly Government’s ambitions in a range of other ways.
Elin Jones said that there will be “bold decisions” to be taken and important choices need to be made now which will shape the forests of the future. She said:
Since publication of the original strategy in 2001, a number of issues have emerged which need to be included in to a revised Woodlands for Wales. For example, in 2001 climate change has risen up the agenda– it is now recognised as the greatest challenge for mankind.
Although Wales is a small country with only 14 per cent of its area as woodland, it can make an important contribution to addressing this issue. To reflect its importance the new strategy is to include a section specifically related to climate change.
Trees and woodlands can plan an important role in protecting against some of the effects of climate change, such as water run-off and soil erosion.
Elin Jones said trees and woodlands need to be more resilient and better adapted to future demands. She said:
To help tackle climate change, woodlands will need to be managed to generate products that can help reduce our fossil fuel emissions. Timber is the ultimate renewable material and can reduce our carbon footprint by replacing energy intensive materials and also increasing the use of woodfuel. This can also have the added benefit of creating more jobs.
The previous strategy also did not include the importance of trees in towns and cities. It is now recognised that they can reduce urban air temperatures which are set to rise as a result of climate change, and it’s important that the new strategy takes this into account.
I look forward to seeing the responses to the consultation so that we are able to address the coming challenges.
Among the specific issues the Welsh Assembly Government wants to hear from people and organisations are:
- Do we need more woodlands? If so, where should they be and what should they be like?
- The importance of trees in towns and cities.
- Woodlands will need to adapt to the impacts of climate change themselves – these are likely to be warmer, drier summers and milder, wetter winters in Wales. The revised strategy will need to give direction for the appropriate management of trees and woodlands.