The recent news that the Government is considering moving woodland in England out of state ownership has attracted a great deal of interest in the media. Concerns range from the possible risks of reducing public access to threats to biodiversity.
However none of the news stories I’ve seen to date relate to the original purpose of the Forestry Commission, that of “rebuilding and maintaining a strategic timber reserve.” Timber resources had been in decline since the Middles Ages and the First World War highlighted how precarious the situation had become. Timber imports could not be relied on and so on 1st September 1919 the Forestry Act came into force and the Forestry Commission began the task of reforestation.
So why is our timber reserve relevant in 2011? We no longer use timber props in trench warfare and there is less demand for timber as fuel for heavy industry. However, we consume huge amounts of timber products such as paper, card and board. In 2010 we imported 82% of our wood and with our existing level of land under forest we are unlikely to ever even achieve 25% self-sufficiency.
I have wondered for some time how we will deal with the inevitable rise in price of plastic and other petroleum derived products and what materials will be used in place of the ubiquitous uPVC. We already use waste newsprint as insulation material and timber windows and doors are far from new as a concept so timber seems the main possibility.
Perhaps the original motive for the creation of the Forestry Commission still holds true and that as well as considering peak oil and our fuel security we out to be considering the risk of peak timber and planting new forests now to ensure that once again we have a sustainable timber reserve.
Whatever your views please take part in the consultation on the future of the public forest estate. You have until 24th April 2011 to take part.
To finish a wonderful clip of the poet Robert Frost reading the poem that inspired the title of this post.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from THE POETRY OF ROBERT FROST edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1923 1969 by Henry Holt and Company. Copyright © 1951 by Robert Frost