Midlands Chase to retain forest

Campaigners are launching a fight to protect Cannock Chase against the government's plans to sell off Forestry Commission land, with a petition launched by a Staffordshire Councillor, Cannock Chase petition over forestry sell off. The opposition is against government plans, outlined in it's consultation on the Foresty Commission's future, which have been viewed as aiming to slim down the commission and change it from owner to an overseer of forests.

So why has this aroused such passion for Cannock Chase? Cannock Chase is a popular Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) located near to Birmingham which welcomes visitors from across the midlands and like the National Forest sprouting near Birmingham provides breathing space from the West Midlands conurbation and a green rampart for Birmingham. It is also intimately tied to the nearby town of Cannock to which the Chase gives it's name to the local council and in the history of the town.

What concerns people is access to the land if it is sold to a commercial operator; the example of Rigg Wood near Coniston in the Lake District sets a worrying prospective view of trusting promises about access where the busy car park was closed limiting access to the wood.

The discussion on the commission isn't necessarily bad with the Guardian highlighting expected concessions to relax the proposals with up to 80,000 hectares of woodland put into charitable trusts, England's forest sell-off plan gets a partial rethink but also an opportunity for the revitalisation of forests to their former deciduous nature rather than the Forestry Commission conifer forests.

This revival is what our woodland should be about, and what must be kept if the Forestry Commission is to change. If the nationalisation of forestry was a disaster, unthinking commercialisation would be worse. The commission owns many obliterated ancient woodlands, which should be converted from pine back to deciduous trees. After a thousand years under oak, ash and beech, and just half a century of conifer, it is not too late to regrow ancient forests on their old soils, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2011/jan/24/forestry-commission-nationalising-commercial-breakup.

Cannock Chase is an area that could become an exemplar of this regeneration of our forests, linking to the nearby National Forest and continuing to offer it's multitude of uses commercial, educational and for leisure.

We should fear changes of ownership less and care about the restoration of lost greenwoods more. It hardly matters who runs the commission's woodlands, but it matters very much that people can walk and ride through them and that the work of restoring broadleaf forests continues. We do not need state-owned forests for this: good things happen without the state, and the outcome will be a definitive test of whether talk of the "big society" amounts to more than letting the market rip.

William Cobbett once quoted, with disapproval, Dr Johnson's claim that planting a tree made him think of dying, because it would outlive him. For those who love forests, that is the point. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2011/jan/24/forestry-commission-nationalising-commercial-breakup

More information on the Save Cannock Chase Campaign can be found on their website:


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