The people of Britain have made it clear that they value their national treasures and wish to keep them for posterity. A recent proposal from the government to sell off about 15 %, or 40,000 hectares, of forestry lands to private enterprise in order to raise £100 million towards reduction of the deficit met with a remarkable outcry from all corners of the U.K.
David Cameron said he would listen to all arguments, and he got them from protestors as diverse as the Ramblers and the Archbishop of Canterbury, plus a petition organized by 38 Degrees that has been signed by almost half a million individuals. In a statement last Friday, Environmental Secretary Caroline Spelman apologized to the Ministers for what she considers a misinterpretation of the Public Bodies Bill.
As it stands now, the sale is on hold at least until a panel composed of ‘experts’ completes a review of protective measures in place regarding public accessibility and future use. Though some woodland areas that are designated as heritage sites will reportedly be handed over to charities, the Public Bodies Bill allows for the sale of 15% of Britain’s forests over the next four years, and 15% in each of the following four years. There has been a postponement but not a halt to the sell-out.
The government’s argument for selling includes the assumption that private companies can manage forests just as well or better than the Forestry Commission, but public and conservationist fears are that this will not be the case. In fact, if careful management is not employed, the vast majority of England’s forest lands could disappear altogether over the next couple of decades. The debate will undoubtedly continue as the government tries to balance revenue and public opinion.