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Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made pursuant to the duty imposed by section 1(3) of the Forestry Act 1967, of the adequacy of national reserves of growing trees. (143606)

The Strategy for England's Trees Woods and Forests to be published on 20 June sets out our objectives for their future role in England. This strategy focuses on maximising the public benefits which trees, woods and forests can deliver. Changing demands from society mean that public benefit is the key test of "adequacy" today. Sustainable management of the existing resource is just as important as new woodland creation. Increased afforestation must be linked with identifiable public benefit.

We have seen a long-term increase in the area of woodland in England and the Forestry Commission monitors this through the national survey of woodland, which has been carried out every 15-20 years since 1924. In addition the Forestry Commission publishes softwood availability forecasts to help inform the plans of wood-using industries and investors. At present we estimate that only around one quarter of annual growth is harvested from England’s native woodlands each year, and only 60 per cent. of the annual growth from England’s conifer forests.