England’s trees, woods and forests are an important and much-loved natural asset. They produce fuel and wood, support plant and animal life and help reduce climate change and its effects. Whether they are single street trees or networks of woodland in the countryside, they provide leisure, recreation and natural beauty.

Climate change, population growth and the increasing pressures on the land put trees and forests at risk. Diseases and pests also pose an increasing danger.

We need to make sure our trees, forests and woodland are properly managed and protected.


In January 2013, we published the ‘Forestry and woodlands policy statement’. This sets out how we will protect, improve and expand our public and private woodlands.

In July 2013 we published an implementation plan which details the progress we have made against the 36 commitments in the policy statement.

Publicly owned forests

Publicly owned forests are a national asset, valued by the people who use them and an important part of the timber industry.

To ensure the Public Forest Estate is properly managed and protected, we’ve committed to setting up a new, independent public body. This body will hold the Public Forest Estate in trust for the nation. We’ve published a summary outlining the new Public Forest Estate Management Organisation’s purpose and will introduce draft legislation when Parliamentary time allows.

Protecting our trees and forests

As well as the normal controls and restrictions on the import, movement and keeping of plants, we’re taking new measures to help ensure the health of our trees and plants and help manage the risk posed to them from disease. These include:

  • setting up the independent Tree and Plant Health Biosecurity Expert Taskforce to review our strategic approach to tree and plant health
  • implementing our chalara management plan, which includes measures to slow the spread of the disease
  • funding research
  • further strengthening our import controls

Woodland economy and well-managed woodland

We will help invigorate the woodland economy, to bring neglected woodlands back into management and help create jobs and growth. To achieve this, we’re:

  • cutting red tape in the forestry sector, and implementing the Forestry Taskforce’s recommendations for reducing regulation as set out in our response to the taskforce’s final report and one year update
  • researching wood products and their markets – we’ll publish the results in Spring 2014
  • carrying out research to find out how best to help landowners create, manage, and get the most from their woodlands

About 47% of woodland, mostly in private ownership, is not well-managed. We’ll check the status of woodland management in 2018, to see if we need to take more action.

Wildlife and the natural environment

We’re working to restore and improve our native and ancient woodlands, carrying out the plans we set out in the ‘Natural environment white paper’ and ‘Biodiversity 2020’.

We’re developing an open habitat strategy for the Public Forest Estate, which we published in December 2013.

To make sure that we properly understand the value of our woodlands, we’ll develop a set of natural capital accounts for UK forestry assets and the Public Forest Estate.

We’re also working to stop deforestation and illegal logging around the world and to encourage the use of sustainable palm oil.

Big Tree Plant

The Big Tree Plant is a national campaign that has brought together a partnership of national organisations who already plant trees, as well as civic and community groups working with Defra and the Forestry Commission.

Its target to plant 1 million new trees in England’s towns and cities between 2010 and 2015 has now been reached and is set to be surpassed. Half of the trees in the Big Tree Plant are going into the 33% most deprived neighbourhoods or those with the least green space.


We set up the Independent Panel on Forestry in 2011. The panel was required to advise us on forestry and woodland policy in England, and on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy. The panel published its final report in 2012.

The ‘Forestry and woodlands policy statement’ (January 2013), incorporates our response to the final report.

Who we’re working with

The Forestry Commission

The Forestry Commission is a government department that is responsible for implementing policy, managing publicly owned forests and regulating privately owned forests, among other duties.

The National Forest

The National Forest Company is responsible for creating the National Forest - woodlands that cover 200 square miles of central England. It was set up in 1995 and is a non-departmental public body sponsored by Defra.

Community Forest Programme

Community Forests are a partnership between local authorities and local, regional and national partners including the Forestry Commission and Natural England. Their aim is to create new opportunities for leisure, recreation and cultural activities.