I am today announcing new arrangements for the governance and management of the Forestry Commission. The Scottish Government is legislating to complete the devolution of forestry, with the effect that from 2019 – the centenary year of the Forestry Commission – the Commissioners’ statutory remit will be only in England. The Commission, its dedicated staff and above all our 250,000 hectares of English public forests are a great national asset. I am confirming today that the Forestry Commission will be retained in England, and will continue to manage our public forests for public benefit – including supply of timber, public access, and the environment.
We will establish a new Board of Commissioners of the Public Forest Estate. Commissioners will continue to be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of her Ministers, who will retain a power of direction.
The Government will not allow any net reduction in the size of the Public Forest Estate, and will support the Commissioners in taking opportunities through active management of the estate to plant more woodland and increase natural capital.
We will continue our work to protect, improve and expand forests and woodlands in England beyond the PFE, as part of the Government’s commitment for this to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it found it.
We will work together with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to promote strong forest science, to sustain high standards for forestry in the UK, and to protect our trees against pests and diseases. Our world-renowned research agency Forest Research will continue as an agency of the Forestry Commission, with new governance, commissioning and funding arrangements agreed with the devolved administrations.
These arrangements provide certainty for the future of the Forestry Commission, and a strong, sustainable platform for our precious forest and woodland environments to thrive for the long term.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: