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English woodlands are being squandered, according to a hard hitting new report from the CLA, which is calling for the Government to rescue the timber industry before tree management becomes a dying art.

The CLA says some 60% of privately owned woodland is under managed; deer and grey squirrels are systematically destroying broadleaved trees and should be properly controlled; new planting has nearly halved in the past five years, to 2,800 hectares a year, and fewer people are taking up forestry training.

Less than 40% of timber is being harvested and less than 1% of the value is returned to the grower, the lowest rate in Europe. By 2050, the CLA wants to see timber’s role in off-setting carbon, saving on fossil fuels and providing heating and building materials recognised, as well as the role of shooting in conservation.

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‘There is no level playing field [in grant support] between the forms of land management,’ says CLA deputy president William Worsley. ‘The things we value coppicing, primroses and bluebells are the result of proper management from the days when people needed wood for fuel.’

The CLA’s woodland specialist Mike Seville comments: ‘There’s not enough money in the pot. Every pound is targeted, mainly at conservation benefits and access, but there’s no recognition of the products. We’ve become wedded to past policies, when the big threat was woodland clearance. Now, the biggest threat is lack of thinning or lack of market for the products of thinning.’