U.K. forests up for private ownership

Voices across the United Kingdom were infuriated by the English government’s proposal to sell 15 per cent of its forests, which are currently maintained by the Forestry Commission. The government claims a conflict of interest is their motivation for the move, while citizens believe the issue is ruining a part of England’s cultural identity.

The Forestry Commission currently manages 18 per cent of England’s forests, which translates to 257,000 hectares of land. The remaining 931,000 hectares is owned through various corporations, private owners and trust foundations.
The issue provoking the anger of the British populace is the implications of displacing the remaining public land into the hands of private owners.

To settle concerns, the government has claimed it will ensure the protection of access and biodiversity of the land.

The government has also claimed that selling the forests will provide a greater role in civil society in general, for both corporations, individuals and various charities and trusts.

“First of all, it sounds like a cost-cutting measure to me,” explained Debora VanNijnatten, political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. “Secondly, if you’re going to dissolve the power to regulate the forests…the big question is whether these trust groups have the capacity to do this?”

A primary concern is the lack of funds and experience these charities have. The British government has stated that it will assist charities in the beginning of their ownership, however they are expected to become self-sufficient. The ambiguity of the plan has distressed the British public and the trusts who have had this responsibility thrust upon them.

“The key problem is that the whole issue is very confused,” said Kevin Hanna, professor of geography and environmental studies at WLU. “It seems as though they threw the idea into the public thinking it wouldn’t be an issue. There is no concrete plan of organization around this which causes problems.”
The rapidity of the government’s plan is an indication of the lack of rigorous inspection that has been given to this idea.

The fact that the movement did not go through parliament exemplifies the rush to have this idea enacted.

“This is a bit of an ideological decision” continued Hanna. “The conservatives in Britain are more pragmatic…the move may not pass because of the sheer independence of MPs, who can vote against their own party if desired.”

Essentially the plan is surrounded by uncertainty of its purpose and application, as well as the persistent expression of dissatisfaction by the British public. The government has been forced to postpone and re-evaluate the movement in order to maintain political favourability with British citizens.