View Full Version : Britain's Heart of Oaks to be sold

David Guyatt
01-27-2011, 04:38 PM
For those unfamiliar with a British government "consultation" it is simply this: a "fuck you later promise" which goes something like this:

"We will listen to what you have to say, ignore it naturally, and then do as we have already agreed to do."

In other words, it's a PR exercise to calm the angry pubic mind at their favourite forest paths being fenced off and excluded to them by private owners.


England forests sell-off: Government outlines plans
Environment secretary launches three-month consultation on intended £250m sale of England's forests and woodlands

• England's forests: the time to act is now

John Vidal, environment editor
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 27 January 2011 12.53 GMT

The government has outlined plans to sell off England's public forests.

The government today outlined plans to sell off public forests in the biggest change in land ownership for more than 80 years.

England's premier "heritage" woodlands such as the Forest of Dean and the New Forest will be handed free to a new national charity or to exiting charitable trusts to manage in the national interest, said the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman. But communities and environment groups will be invited to buy tens of thousands of hectares of land at the market rate which they will be able to run them themselves. In addition, large areas of commercial woodland will be sold on 150-year leases to companies.

The forests sell-off could raise £150-250m over 10 years but should not affect existing access rights or environmental quality, said Spelman, launching a three-month consultation on the intended disposal.

"State control of forests dates back to the first world war, when needs were very different. There's now no reason for the government to be in the business of timber production and forest management. It's time for the government to step back and allow those who are most involved with England's woodlands to play a much greater role in their future," she said.

All 258,000 hectares (ha) of English woodland has been provisionally divided into four categories, ranging from "heritage" to "multi-purpose", "small timber and "large commercial".

Heritage woods, thought to be around 80,000ha in total including the Forest of Dean and the New Forest, will continue to be publicly funded. A new charity is expected to be set up to manage these "jewels in the crown" but organisations such as the Woodland Trust could be invited to take them over.

A further 25% of English woodland will be offered at commercial rates to community groups who will be able to apply for existing grants and will be under no obligation to "improve" facilities. But the long leases they will be offered will on the condition that they maintain existing access.

Large swaths of commercial forest, such as Kielder Forest in Northumberland, will be put on the market on long leases which will force the new owners to continue existing access. According to sources in the government, conditions put on the land could go beyond existing legal minimum and include restoring ancient woodland, maintaining signs and requiring that wood is grown to high certification standards.

But officials at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that there was still considerable uncertainty over whether communities might choose to buy and manage land, as also confusion about the legal access to land that the Forestry Commission presently leases rather than owns outright.

In addition, little consideration appears to have been given to the 25% of the English forestry estate which is health, bog, farmland and quarry.

Moreover, said campaigners, there remains confusion over what happens to forests that are not taken up by communities.

Green groups and trade unions said the plans would be bad for wildlife and the public. Over a quarter of a million people have now signed an online petition opposing the sell-off.

The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "The government is barking up the wrong tree with these proposals. Quite rightly, public alarm is growing at the privatisation of our most treasured natural assets. People appreciate the way our forests are managed for the nation by the professional staff of the Forestry Commission. Volunteer foresters or private companies won't do the job as well and the careful balance between timber, public amenity, biodiversity and conservation will be lost."

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "Britain's woodlands are precious for millions of people, a source not only of great curiosity but also great fulfilment. They offer important habitats to much loved wildlife, as well as enjoyment and beauty to families up and down the country. It's no surprise that there has been an upswell of public concern at the prospect that our island's natural life might be auctioned off at a government-sponsored jumble sale. The government must now guarantee not only the complete right of access to all our forests but also the budget for their protection and restoration."

But David Cameron's official spokesman said fears were unfounded: "We are not going to sell off our heritage forests to the highest bidder, we are not going to remove public access to forests – there will be strict rules in place to prevent that happening. There is a consultation. We are going to have that consultation and listen to people's views and then come to some conclusions."

There is a range of potential buyers for forests, from the private sector to community groups, said the spokesman.

Jan Klimkowski
01-27-2011, 06:30 PM
Yup - this is a total disgrace.

Thatcher hawked state utilities to the cheapest and most incompetent of private companies as part of her ideological crusade against trade unions and state control of the things that people actually need: such as water, electricity, public transport.

Now Thatcher's bastard sprogs, Cameron and Osborne, are selling off the countryside itself.

David Guyatt
01-27-2011, 07:02 PM
The really very wealthy can buy these forests, die, and thereafter pay not a penny of their estate in death duties.

So, as I keep saying, we better get used to tugging our forelock in the future.

Jan Klimkowski
01-27-2011, 07:50 PM
The really very wealthy can buy these forests, die, and thereafter pay not a penny of their estate in death duties.

So, as I keep saying, we better get used to tugging our forelock in the future.

The return of the serf mentality.

Failure to sing the company song heartily and lustily will result in one being placed on the Volkland Security "terrorist" list.

Ever onward! ever onward!
we're bound for the top to never fall,
right here and now we thankfully
pledge sincerest loyalty
to the corporation that's the best of all
our leaders we revere
and while we're here,
let's show the world just what we think of them!
so let us sing men - sing men
once or twice, then sing again
for the ever onward IBM!


Pretty close to praying to ICBM - intercontinental ballistic missiles - as in the heavily cut, beat poet-inspired, Beneath the Planet of the Apes scenes in the mutant temple.

Follow the bouncing ball, as Thomas Pynchon once wrote...

Magda Hassan
01-27-2011, 10:46 PM
Enclosure of the Commons round 2

Magda Hassan
02-07-2011, 01:27 PM
The UK Government plans to sell-off public forests. Protest campaigns are growing all over the country. Billy Bragg's version of the classic Woody Guthrie folk song seems the ideal soundtrack.

http://saveourforests.co.uk (http://saveourforests.co.uk/)
http://www.saveourwoods.co.uk (http://www.saveourwoods.co.uk/)
http://38degrees.org.uk (http://38degrees.org.uk/)
http://saveenglandsforests.org (http://saveenglandsforests.org/)
http://www.handsoffourforest.org (http://www.handsoffourforest.org/)
http://www.savelakelandforess.org.uk (http://www.savelakelandforess.org.uk/)
http://www.savecannockchase.org.uk (http://www.savecannockchase.org.uk/)

Billy Bragg (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Billy-Bragg/44905697470)
Heard over the weekend that the Tory MP for the Forest of Dean, Mark Harper, held a meeting on the planned sell-off of the forest on Friday night. Given only 24 hours notice, the protesters packed the hall with as many again locked out. They sang my British version of 'This Land Is Your Land' and, after being confronted with nothing but opposition to the govt plans, police had to escort the Tory out of the back door.


Magda Hassan
02-11-2011, 01:29 PM

English forest sell-off put on hold

Delay announced to sale of 15% of England's publicly owned forest (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/28/england-forest-sell-off-q-and-a), to allow for a review of woodland protection.

The move follows widespread criticism of proposals (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/feb/09/national-trust-forest-sell-off) by ministers to offload the remaining 85% of England's public forest estate to timber companies, charities and local communities.
Reacting to the government's announcement, David Babbs, executive director of campaign group 38 Degrees (http://38degrees.org.uk/) said:"It's welcome news that our people-powered campaign has pushed the government to postpone the start of the sell-off for at least a few months. But if David Cameron hopes the fuss will now die down, he's going to be disappointed.

David Guyatt
02-11-2011, 02:48 PM
Good news. Let's hope that the idea dies a quiet death...

Magda Hassan
03-08-2011, 10:37 PM
The Irish Government is moving closer to a huge sell-off of the public forests managed by Coillte (The Irish Forestry Board) to private investors. An area greater than 1 million acres, equivalent to two medium sized counties will be lost forever. This will include some of our most valuable native woodlands, wild places and some of the last refuges of our native flora and fauna.

Interest has been expressed by Swiss finance company Helvetia Wealth - who own the International Forestry Fund (IFF) - chaired by Bertie Ahern, (ex-prime minister of Ireland) as well as The China Investment Corporation.

Please sign this petition now to tell the Irish Government that Ireland's Forests are not for sale. These forests are the inheritance of the Irish children and managed wisely can help secure Ireland's social, environmental and economic future. A strong show of support, asserting our rightful ownership of the public forests will make all the difference.
Petition Letter

To: Mary McAleese, The President of Ireland, and the Irish Government.

We the undersigned,

Wish it be known that the public forests belong to the people of Ireland and under no circumstances should they be sold to private interests as a short-sighted economic reaction.

The economy of Ireland under the Gaelic Order was that of the forests. This great resource was the provider of raw materials, medicine, weapons, tools, charcoal and food (in the form of berries, nuts, fungi, fruit, wild animals, etc.) as well as the basis for spirituality and wisdom. No other country has as many placenames connected to the forest with as many as 40,000 still in existence. Our forests are of great cultural and economic importance, therefore in these uncertain times we must retain full control over this most precious resource.

The loss of our public forests will mean an area equivalent to two medium sized counties will be gone forever, all the potential benefits to local communities (now needed more than ever) will be lost. Access to rivers and water rights, fishing and hunting rights, wild fruits, nuts, mushrooms and basic access to nature will be removed, as well as the environmental services trees provide.

The Irish forests need to be placed in a trust to safeguard them now and into the future. We also wish to see the public forests developed and diversified to maximise their potential multiple benefits for the common good of the Nation. This should focus on the conservation, restoration, and enhancement of our neglected native tree species. The native trees of any place are scientifically recognised to be the most valuable land based habitat for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

We hope that you appreciate the seriousness of this matter, that you will reconsider any notion of selling the public forests and proceed to act in the best interests of the Irish people.

"Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?, Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár"
"What will we do without wood?, now the forest lies low"

Daibhí ÓBruadair (circa 1700's), a brehon poet lamenting the loss of the great Irish forests in his famous poem Caoine Cill Chais.

Photo, Hawthorn by Carlene Gildea

What will the Sale and Loss of Ireland's Public Forests actually mean:

An area the size of two medium sized counties like Meath will be in Private ownership, which could entail having Private security companies with razor-wire fencing in place to prevent the sovereign citizens of Ireland accessing their old rights of way, areas of commonage, archaeological and sites of cultural significance.
Some of our most valuable native woodland sites will be threatened, the last remains of our ancient wild places, the refuge of our native flora and fauna.
The opportunity to transform the green desert of monocultural chemical dependent exotic species that passes for state forestry, back to a natural Native woodland model will be lost.
The public will be unable to prevent unsustainable development happening in their woodlands, like quarries, windfarms, incinerators, nursing homes, golf courses, etc.
All the benefits from the forests, now needed more than ever, will be removed from local communities. These include firewood, wild fruits, nuts & mushrooms and basic access to nature for walking, mountain-biking etc.
Access to rivers and water rights, fishing, will also be taken away.

Lest we forget, Ireland's natural environment and indigenous culture is western seaboard temperate rainforest embedded, even though the Great Forests were taken, their spirit is in the land, the poetry, and music of Ireland. Losing control of the public forests is too high a price to pay for a culture that is still trying to find its way back to its Forest culture. It was the Great Forests which sustained the Gaelic people for centuries as an independent highly civilised people, renowned for their wisdom and learning, its removal was part of the process of that culture's final destruction.

The Brian Boru Oak, Co. Clare, is believed to be over 900 years old.

Issues associated with the sale of Coillte:

Since the McCarthy report of June 2009, the selling of Coillte, and Ireland's entire public forest estate, has been on the cards.
The Woodland League, have always suspected that Coillte was set up a) as a vehicle to facilitate the extraction of huge grants from the EU, and b) to consolidate, and sell off, a major Public asset, the largest land bank.
In November of 2009 disgraced ex Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was appointed chairman of a Swiss finance company with forestry interests. They have, openly expressed their interest in buying Coillte.
Coillte was created in 1989 and "gifted" the land bank of the Forest Service, (up till then managed under the Department of Agriculture). It was set up as a semi state body, with two shareholders, the Minister for Finance Albert Reynolds holding 99 shares, and the Minister for Energy Michael Smith(connection to energy and resources, Shell etc) with 1 share, on behalf of the public.
The Land Commission set up in the late 1800's to redistribute land to the people after the victory of the Land League, was dissolved on the same day, and all its remaining assets were transferred to Coillte. There is no record of the size of this land bank or what other assets came with it, e.g. properties, etc.
Coilltes first act was to commission a geological survey of the land beneath the trees, the results of which are not in the public domain. The new owners may inherit rich mineral deposits.
From its inception, Coillte was excluded from FOI (Freedom of Information) making it impossible to obtain information regarding its business, its employees operate under the Official Secrets act.
Bizarre indeed, for a company whose remit is the planting and growing of trees to increase the public forest estate and manage this gift wisely.
Since 1989, Coillte have posted 300 million Euros in profits.
They have acted as the largest unofficial land developer in Ireland and have sold thousands of acres in that period, including the 400 acres to facilitate Shells refinery in Mayo.
In their 21 years existence, they have made one contribution to the public exchequer -- 2.5 million Euros, last year.
This coincided with Coillte requiring a loan facility of 400 million Euros, from a government in financial crisis. This is 100 million euros more than all of their profits over 21 years. The loan was approved by the Dail during Christmas week 2009.
Coillte claim they are now in debt to the tune of 179 million Euros.
The CEO, David Gunning has stated the traditional forestry model in Ireland is no longer valid, when giving a presentation to the joint agriculture committee in 2009.
Recently, Coillte's estate was valued by a State agency at 1.2 billion euros, approx 1000 euros per acre.

As the Woodland League sees it we are facing a situation where a company has so mismanaged its millions of funds in grants and payments that it is in debt, that this same company has, in 21 years, made virtually no return to the exchequer, and that now, a former Taoiseach, privy to Coillte's real worth (including geological) is attempting to sell it, and one million acres of Ireland, to Swiss financiers.

Someone must shout STOP!!!

" A culture" the poet W.H. Auden said, "Is no better than its woods."
A place without trees, he implied, has no roots, no strength and no shelter.

Please Sign Our Petition at www.thepetitionsite.com (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/help-save-irelands-forests/)
When asked for postcode enter 1234.

Thanking you for your support.

See the following Woodland League press releases for further information:

Press Release 27 Aug.pdf (http://woodlandleague.org/pressreleases/Press%20Release%2027%20Aug.pdf) - Millenium Woodlands

Ireland cannot afford to sell the peoples forests.pdf (http://woodlandleague.org/pressreleases/Ireland%20cannot%20afford%20to%20sell%20the%20peop les%20forests%202.pdf) - McCarthy Report

External Links:

Ahern's international forestry body could own 7% of Irish land (http://www.tribune.ie/news/home-news/article/2010/dec/05/aherns-international-forestry-body-could-own-7-of-/) - Tribune Article December 5, 2010

The International Forestry Fund presents to the China Investment Corporation (http://www.helvetia-wealth.com/the-international-forestry-fund-presents-to-the-china-investment-corporation,144.html) - While Ireland was facing economic & sovereign meltdown with the IMF sharks circling her waters, Bertie Ahern (an elected representative of the Irish People) was in China, in a private capacity as chairman of the IFF.

A note of thanks to all our supporters, and a Happy New Year - The Woodland League

As the Woodland League operate on a voluntary basis we would welcome any financial contributions, large or small, towards continuing our work. We are currently trying to raise funds for a freedom of information request, our continuing campaign and also for ongoing phone bills and other costs.

Donations can be sent to -

The Woodland League, C/O East Clare Community Co-op, Main Street, Scarriff, Co. Clare.


Bank Details -

Bank of Ireland, Tulla, Co. Clare.
Account No: 80998623
NSC: 904480
IBAN No: IE53 BOFI 9044 8080 9986 23

Contact -

Andrew St Ledger, PRO The Woodland League
087 9933157