Yesterday (Sunday 30th Jan) saw more than 1,000 people converge on Grizedale Forest, here in Cumbria, in order to protest against the Governments recent plans to sell off nationally owned woodland.
Families, walkers, cyclists and more all turned up at the forest centre to make their opinions known and to hear speeches from campaign leaders, including Lord Clark of Windermere, a former Forestry Commission chairman.
Lord Clark said:
"…If this sell-off goes ahead, whether it is leasehold or freehold, it will actually cost us more money…”
"…The government is proposing some of our forests to be given away to charities and then provide them with an annual subsidy to run the forests…”
"…We give £26 million a year to private forestry. That will probably double if we have to subsidise the charities…"
The Governments plans would transfer power from the Forestry Commission, which owns 18% of woodlands, to the private sector which they say will aid public control, but could put the forests and woodlands out of public access.
In a act of defiance Lord Clark, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, and Barrow MP John Woodcock, ripped up copies of the Government's Public Bodies Reform Bill which contains clauses that would allow all Forestry Commission land to be sold off, including Grizedale, Ennerdale and Whinlatter Forest, all major tourist attractions in the Lake District.
Also addressing the crowd was Cumbria Tourism and Wainwright Society chairman, Eric Robson, who said;
"…The sham is that they are going to have a consultation while at the same time the Government pushes on with two clauses in the Public Bodies Reform Bill which would dramatically change what happens. It's an absolute disgrace…"
DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has stated that it envisaged "…a managed programme of reform to further develop a competitive, thriving and resilient forestry sector that includes many sustainably-managed woods…" and was committed to biodiversity and other public benefits.
To add your support to the campaign then please go to http://www.savelakelandsforests.org.uk/