During the 1970s and 1980s I planted hundreds of trees for the Forest of Avon. At the same time tax concessions and subsidies were offered to wealthy investors and private foresters to plant conifer plantations all over the country. Supported by the Forestry Commission at the time, these blocks of lightless spruce trees degraded the soils, reduced wildlife habitats and biodiversity and caused environmental and landscape vandalism on a massive scale. A few landowners and investors made a mint at our expense.
I shudder at the thought of Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat parties repeating these disastrous mistakes, but since they give no thought to what they destroy in order to score political points I fear for the future of our green and pleasant land and our depleted biodiversity. A native oak tree harbours no fewer than 423 species. An exotic sitka spruce just 37!
We need a wiser and more knowledgeable approach to tree planting.
We need to allow treescapes to grow of their own accord, seeding them with a diversity of natives that will restore their ancient niches, recreate their own habitats, reconnect our fragmented forests with arboreal corridors to allow the migration of wildlife trying to cope with rising temperatures and the changing climate. It is also noteworthy that in a heatwave, similar to the one we experienced last year, blocks or stands of conifers burn much more readily than deciduous trees.
If governments had listened to organisations and agencies that know about re-wooding our landscape, and agreed to work together for the public good and not private profit, we would have a far smaller carbon footprint today.
I've worked with trees for most of my life. They make great companions on all my walks. If elected, I would willingly lead the long overdue restoration of our hedgerows, our woodlands, our Forest, our Biosphere. We would restore our depleted tree cover and help sequester and store huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.
Please give me a chance to encourage our arboreal heritage to flourish once more.