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Monday, 31 January 2011

31/1/2011: Help stop the privatisation of our forests!

If you aren't one of the 330,000 people that have signed the anti-sell-off 38degrees petition yet, please do so here:

The petition has helped trigger a crunch vote in Parliament this Wednesday (Feb 2nd). MPs will vote on a motion demanding a rethink of plans to sell our national forests. This vote can be won if MPs come under enough pressure.

It's quick and easy to email your MP, click here to send them a message:

Here's my letter to local MP David Evenett (Conservative):

Dear Mr. Evenett,

I'm concerned about the proposed sell-off of English woodlands and understand there is a vote in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

Our woodlands should belong to, and be available for the enjoyment of the public in perpetuity, as well as being managed for biodiversity, wood products and carbon capture. I am not persuaded that privatising them or issuing long leases with certain accessibility conditions is the best way to do that. If we look at who is buying land and national debts at the moment, we see overseas investors from (unsustainably) growing economies. There is therefore a danger that those with little long-term interest in our forest heritage will take control of what belongs to the UK public.

In addition, the Forestry Commission appears set to maintain a regulatory role, but without the income it currently makes from selling timber. The net result will be a very limited saving to the public purse. Moreover, the amount of subsidy currently received by the FC per taxpayer is tiny in comparison to the national benefit of a public forest estate.

As someone actively involved in both Lesnes Abbey (Wood) Conservation Volunteers and Cray Riverkeeper Volunteers, I see how difficult it is to mobilise volunteer labour, and I think the Government is being naive and misguided if it thinks 'community groups' with little funding, and often without paid or trained organisers can take over from the FC on any significant scale. Has it really thought through the Health and Safety implications and red tape that will be associated with volunteers attempting to do serious tree work? I doubt it!

I urge you, therefore, to vote against the Public Bodies Bill as currently proposed, and any amendments that open the door to a sell off. Please can you assure me that you will vote to protect and keep **our** forests in public ownership on Wednesday and tell the government to rethink?

Best wishes,

Chris Rose

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