We need more trees

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

More woodlands, properly managed – oh dear, the dreaded “m” word, as far as many misguided environmentalists are concerned, I know – is what we needed, and also more trees in other locations.

But mention the word management and those those above mentioned environmentalists will scream blue murder and dare you say that trees will be cut, even under proper coppice management, they call it slaughter.

We need trees where people live and even well managed coppice woods in towns and cities; anywhere where there is space for them, from parks to cemeteries and anywhere else between. In some places this is beginning to happen but we need more of it, much more. In fact, we need it to happen everywhere.

The problem being encountered with establishing and especially managing woods in parks and cemeteries by way of coppicing and making use of the wood time and again runs foul of interfering misguided and misinformed environmentalists who believe that cutting down a tree and that management of woods is bad for the environment. They jump up and down and make a hullabaloo and frighten the authorities to abandon such schemes quite frequently. It is almost impossible to reason with such folks who suffer from cognitive dissonance as they will not even listen to even the most learned men and women in the field, and not just “ordinary” foresters and woodsmen, if it does not conform to their beliefs.

However, regardless of their beliefs and their cognitive dissonance, we need to first of all bring all our woods, whether in the countryside or in our parks wherever they may be, including the city, and the woods and trees of cemeteries, into production through proper management, and then we need to plant more trees and woods, including and especially where people live. And we need to start it the day before yesterday, not tomorrow or even today. But as today really is the possible option today it has to be.

Let us start, before even getting into planting new woodlands, to look at properly managing our existing woods and woodlands, however large or small, private or “public”, and do that is such way that benefits the ecology and the local economy. It can be done. We have done so for many thousands of years in this country, by coppicing and pollarding trees and managing the trees and woods in a way that benefits all.

The great majority of our woods and woodlands, private and “public”, in the British Isles today have not seen any proper management for around half a century or even more because people rather bought plastic – as it was cheaper – than products made from homegrown sustainably cut wood.

*While plastic products that replaced those traditionally made from (coppiced) wood have led to the deterioration of our woods nothing has done more damage as the already mentioned misinformed and misguided self-styled and self-proclaimed “environmentalists” who vociferously insisted that the woods be left to fend for themselves and often interfered, by direct action even, with any management attempt.

The tide needs turning and the neglect of our woods and woodlands reversed by, once again, taking them in hand through proper management though, alas, this will, to some extent will look rather drastic and may cause some more complaints from certain quarters. Restarting coppice management will throw wide open areas, especially if they are of overstood coppice, which many of them will be, that previously have been full of rather large, though more often than not multi-stemmed, trees and this will look rather strange to start with.

But, in order to revitalize our woods and woodlands and make them healthy and productive again this is something that we must accept. It also does not last for very long and the prolific regrowth, general, of everything that before was in the dark on the woodland floor will soon make up for this change in scenery and especially the amount of butterflies and other insects and birds that will, suddenly, conquer those opened up areas.

Once we have done this, have restarted the proper management of our woods, then we must think about, and not just think about it but do it, planting more trees and woods wherever at all possible, and this must include parks and cemeteries, but also roads and other places in towns and cities. Agricultural land that does not grow crops well and that may thus not be is use should also be converted to woodland. In this way areas of woods should and would be created around the towns and cities and also the villages everywhere.

While such newly established coppice woods will require time to establish themselves, even with the most intensive management, and can never replace the ecosystems that are ancient woods, they will, over time, become valuable habitat and a source for raw materials for the new wood culture. Thus they are good for the (local) environment as well as local industry. At the same time they will be good for all of us for, as scientists have discovered, not that it should have taken much of an effort, living near and around trees makes us feel better and also act better.

© 2015

For more on woodland management and especially coppicing and why, etc. see “Managing our Woods”, a small book that explains the whys and wherefores of managing our woods in this way and calls for us to return to that way.