Friends of the Forest
The way forward
In pursuit of Friends of the Forestís aim, our initial objectives are:
The attainment of protection for the Forest of Dean District under planning law that adequately reflects and safeguards its national importance in terms of its unique landscape quality and character, biodiversity, and social, cultural and industrial history.
The attainment of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status within the District of the Forest of Dean, with the Hundred of St Briavels as the starting point for the boundary assessment.
So far, over 6000 people have demonstrated support for our objectives and the future well-being of the Forest of Dean District. We will continue our efforts to seek further support for our cause from individuals and organisations and lobby those in authority at local, national, and international level.
Despite the Forest of Dean containing Englandís premier Oak forest, with over 4 million Oak trees growing in it together with conifers and other hardwood trees such as Beech and Chestnut, the recent World Wildlife Fund report Insight into Europeís Forest Protection (WWF Report) shows that Britainís record in safeguarding its forests is extremely poor, with only 0.6% of them currently protected compared with a European nationsí mean of 6.3%. As if that was not bad enough, the World Wildlife Fund European Forest Scorecards report, published in 2000, showed that in managing those areas that it claims to protect, compared with a European mean score of 47 and a best nation score (Slovakia) of 66, the UK could only achieve a performance score of 40 out of 100. Out of the 9 management parameters assessed, in not even one did the UK score good or fair, only in the case of 5 parameters was it tolerable, and the remaining 4 parameters were recorded as bad. This inadequate protection was addressed in Vienna in April 2003 at the Fourth Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE).
At the conference, the UK was party to the Vienna Living Forest Summit Declaration Ė European Forests Ė Common Benefits, Shared Responsibilities. It committed the UK to benefiting rural and urban livelihood in afforested areas, to honouring the role of forests in global climate control, and to promoting forest conservation, forest development, and sustainable forest management. It also committed the UK to implementing, applying, and if necessary improving, criteria and indicators for monitoring, assessing and reporting progress on sustainable forest management.
To date, there is little evidence of the UK fulfilling these commitments. Based on the WWF data, despite the Forestry Commissionís responsibilities, the UKís performance in protecting and benefiting its forests, their inhabitants and cultures, demonstrates a lot is still needed of it; and this includes its current performance in respect to the afforested portion of the Forest of Dean. As part of our aim to obtain AONB designation for the Forest of Dean District, Friends of the Forest will therefore continue to press the UK Government that the current lack of adequate protection for the area is unacceptable not only because it is failing to fulfil promises made at national level to its inhabitants, but because it is also failing in its international commitments relating to one of the Districtís key assets.