Further to Jonathan Porritt’s critique of the UK’s environmental movement’s response to the government’s forest fireside sale which is now been chopped (forgive the puns), he commented (before the government’s u-turn announcement yesterday) further about their response to the coalition’s initiative. I like his strategic approach.
So my simple suggestion for the Big 10 is this: start all over again, but urgently. Develop a joint position to maximise the massive leverage that your collective membership still commands.
Then approach Mrs Spelman with a deal: if she withdraws the relevant clauses in the Public Bodies Bill, you will hold back from launching a national, joint, high-profile campaign to oppose the current proposals root and branch – in effect, to take on some of the heavy-lifting that has been carried so far by 38 Degrees and some brilliant local campaigns.
In return, you offer to work with Defra, the Forestry Commission and representatives of local action groups to come up with some genuinely radical proposals on how best to improve and extend the Public Forest Estate, how best to involve community groups, NGOs and the private sector, how best to turn the turgid rhetoric about the “Big Society” into a living, breathing blueprint for sustainable forestry in the UK over the next 20/30 years.
And this might well include creative ideas about different patterns of ownership, different ways of optimising public benefit, and indeed different ways of improving the conditions of the 60% of privately owned woodlands in England that are already poorly managed from a commercial point of view and are providing zero public benefit.