The Forestry Commission (established in 1919) is a non-ministerial government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. Its mission is to protect and expand Britain's forests and woodlands and increase their value to society and the environment.
The Forestry Commission manages almost one million hectares of land in Great Britain, making it the country's biggest land manager. The majority of the land (60%) is in Scotland, 26% of the landholding is in England and the remainder in Wales. Some of Britain's best-loved and most spectacular landscapes are in its care. Activities carried out on the forest estate include maintenance and improvement of the natural environment and the provision of recreation, timber harvesting to supply domestic industry, regenerating brownfield and replanting of harvested areas, .
Afforestation was the main reason for the creation of the commission in 1919. Britain had only 5% of its original forest cover left and the government at that time wanted to create a strategic resource of timber. Since then forest area has more than doubled and the remit of the commission is much more focused on sustainable forest management and maximising public benefits.
The Forestry Commission is also the government body responsible for the regulation of private forestry (felling is generally illegal without first obtaining a licence from the Commission) and for encouraging new planting. Part of this role is carried out by providing grants in support of private forests and woodlands
The organisation has a Board of Commissioners with duties and powers prescribed by statute, consisting of a Chair Pam Warhurst, and up to ten other Forestry Commissioners, including its Director General, who are appointed by the Queen.
The Commission also has an Executive Board which assists the Director General and Country Directors in the effective management of the Commission by providing leadership and setting direction for the Commission as an organisation.
Its current structure of separate Forestry Commissions for England, Scotland and Wales, came into effect on 1 April 2003. This structure allows the Commission to focus more clearly on delivering the policies of the individual Governments while still having the ability to take a Great Britain-wide approach to "cross-border" issues.
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