Woodland creation schemes awarded £6m to create jobs and enhance climate sinks

Twelve woodland creation projects across England have snapped up a share of £6m from a fund that aims to create forestry jobs and improving public access to nature.

Between £250,000 and £500,000 is to be handed out to each of the schemes by the Trees Call to Action Fund, which the National Lottery Heritage Fund runs in partnership with Defra and the Forestry Commission.

Announcing the winning schemes this morning, the Forestry Commission and Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the successful projects comprise six new ‘woodland creation partnerships’ in rural and urban areas; two projects that aim to grow and upskill the forestry sector workforce; and three projects encouraging community engagement with and access to trees and woodlands.

Among the projects to have secured funding are a training scheme for managing ancient trees and an initiative to create green spaces at healthcare sites.

Other projects include an Institute of Chartered Foresters scheme to train the next generation of forestry leaders, and a project that will advise and support landowners in woodland management and creation.

“Investment in woodland creation is key to protecting our natural environment and achieving net zero by 2050,” said Forestry Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith. “These inspiring projects will encourage large-scale woodland creation, build the forestry sector of the future and bring people across the country closer to nature.”

Forestry Commission chair Sir William Worsley said the fund would help address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. “It will also bring trees and woodlands closer to where people live and create more green jobs in the forestry and allied sectors,” he added. “Congratulations to all the projects which will now receive funding – together we will grow trees, woods and forests to make the nation more resilient amidst our changing climate.”

The government has pledged to treble tree planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament, and was one of than 100 countries to sign a pact during the COP26 Climate Summit to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030.

However, it has faced mounting criticism from MPs and campaigners over sluggish afforestation rates and its continued backing for biomass energy. In late November, Goldsmith admitted that just 2,000 hectares of trees had been planted in England across 2021, despite the government pledging to plant 30,000 hectares of new woodland across the UK annually by 2024, of which 7,000 to 10,000 would be in England.

The latest round of funding for woodland creation comes just a few days after Defra separately announced plans to allocate £2.4m to creating five major nature restoration schemes across England that could eventually cover 99,200 hectares of land in total.

The five landscape-scale projects in the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk, and Somerset would bring together existing nature reserves and landscapes that are currently unprotected, according to update.

Defra said the land covered by the projects was equivalent in size to all 219 existing national nature reserves in England, and would make a significant contribution to the govennment’s aims to protect at least 30 per cent of the UK’s land and sea, and half the decline in species abundance, by 2030.

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