Call for England’s 10 biggest landowners to grow more trees

By agency reporter
August 17, 2020

New analysis by Friends of the Earth shows that some of the biggest institutional landowners in England have levels of woodland cover on their land that is even lower than the weak national average.

The environmental campaign group has produced the first league table of England’s ten largest landowners, ranked by the area of woodland they each own. Nationally, England’s woodland cover stands at 10 per cent.

In last place is the Church Commissioners, the investment arm of the Church of England, whose 105,000-acre estate has just three per cent woodland cover. At this year’s General Synod, the Church vowed to reach net zero emissions by 2030.

And despite the Prince of Wales being famed for his interest in environmentalism, his estate, the 130,000-acre Duchy of Cornwall, has just six per cent woodland cover.

The Prince and the Church are surpassed even by Highways England, the government department that manages the country’s major trunk roads – but who also have 13,588 acres of woodland growing by the side of motorways, 11 per cent of their total landholdings. Unsurprisingly, the Forestry Commission tops the list, with over 400,000 acres of woods.

Friends of the Earth acknowledges the vital importance of habitats outside of woodland that are also important for supporting nature and fighting the climate crisis, and that some landowners will prioritise restoring such habitats. Recent analysis of unpublished Forestry Commission data found that there is enough suitable land in England to triple tree cover in England, without impacting on other Priority Habitats such as peat bogs.

Friends of the Earth trees campaigner, Guy Shrubsole, said: “Much of England is owned by a very small number of landowners, who have a responsibility to better use their land in a way that helps address the climate and nature crises facing us all. A big part of this means growing more trees, which would remove planet-wrecking carbon from the air and provide homes for wildlife.

“The Government shouted from the rooftops about the launch of the England Tree Strategy but didn’t even set a tree target for the country. This lack of ambition shows a complete disregard for the climate crisis. Ministers must turn this around, by committing to a target to double UK tree cover and providing better incentives for landowners to grow more trees and rewild their estates.”

* Friends of the Earth has an open letter asking the Church Commissioners and the Duchy of Cornwall to grow more trees on their land. It can be signed here

* Friends of the Earth


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