Fight to save forests has only just begun

The forests sell-off would be bad for public access, bad for woodland wildlife, and bad for the economy. As long as those laws are being pushed through, our forests are still in danger.

David Babbs is the executive director of 38 Degrees

Defra officials announced their plans to postpone the sell-off of 15 per cent of our forests yesterday morning. In a concession to building public anger, the disposal of the public land is not scheduled to start until a decision has been made on the future of the whole forestry estate.

Nearly half a million people have now signed our petition demanding that the government halt all sales of nationally-owned woodland.

The move comes as Caroline Spelman was due to announce which pieces of land would have come under the hammer, and indicates the government’s fear of further pressure from the public. More than 100,000 constituents wrote to their MPs last week, and six coalition MPs rebelled against the government in an opposition day debate – including Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron.

The postponing of the sale is certainly welcome news for all those who care about our national forests, but if David Cameron hopes the fuss will now die down, he will be sorely disappointed. With public meetings last night in Rendlesham, Suffolk, and Worthing, Sussex, and many more over the coming weeks, the public will not be moved by this announcement.

The Public Bodies Bill, which as it stands gives ministers the unprecedented powers to dispose of all national forests to private owners, is currently being debated in the Lords. We will keep up the pressure as long as the government is pushing through through this dangerous law.

The government is yet to give any convincing reason for selling off our forests. The sell-off would be bad for public access, bad for woodland wildlife, and bad for the economy. As long as those laws are being pushed through, our forests are still in danger.

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