FORESTERS have sprung into action in united opposition to what they believe will be a sell-off of public forests in England, including parts of the Dean.

Action got underway following the government’s announcement last Friday (October 29) that it is committed to: “Fundamentally reform the public forestry estate, with diminishing public ownership and a greater role for private and civil society partners.”

Political leaders in the Forest unanimously welcomed the announcement.

Forest MP, Mark Harper said: “full measures will remain in place to preserve the public benefits of woods and forests under any new ownership arrangements.”

The leader of the Forest of Dean District Council, Cllr Peter Amos said: “I am pleased with the reassurances from the coalition government and 180 years on I feel Warren James can continue to rest in peace.”

But their comments have done little to allay fears among Foresters.

Dean Forest Voice held a meeting at the Rising Sun, Moseley Green, on Monday (November 1) and announced the setting up of a steering group to act as a source of “reliable information regarding the possible threats of a sell-off of the Forest woodlands and to coordinate opposition.

“As in 1981 and 1992, this is not the first time that the Forest has come under threat from sell-off and now, as then, we are determined to fight the threat.”

Colin Smith, chairman of Friends of the Forest, said: “We declare our strongest opposition to even the slightest threat to our public woodlands, especially, of course, to the Forest of Dean. We hope all local environmental groups will unite to nip this lunatic suggestion in the bud.”

The Review has been inundated with letters and calls, all in opposition to any potential sell-off (see our letters section).

Bill Hobman, former chairman of the district council writes: “I state then as now, that the people of this country to whom the Forest belong fought two world wars for King and country, it is ours, no one owns the freehold of the Forest of Dean, the government are the custodians and the Forestry Commission its managers.”

Nationwide there is a petition in opposition to any forestry sell-off which has already attracted 28,000 people.

Locally the Review has joined forces with its sister paper, The Forester, in a Hands off our Forest campaign, with online petitions on both our websites and a cut-out paper version in our newspaper.

Why not vote on our online poll…

BONFIRE CALL TO BATTLE!

THE Fern Bonfire at Speech House Field on Saturday (November 6, 6pm) will be the setting for a massive protest in song to stop the proposed sale of Forestry Commission woodlands.

Anyone who attends the event, which begins at 6pm, is being invited to join in a resounding rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Dean – last sung when our woodlands were similarly threatened in 1993/94.

Penned by the late Lily Dunn, the rallying call will hopefully be backed (as in the last battle) by Forest of Dean Male Voice Choir members. Dave Harvey has agreed to be MC. It is believed television cameras will be present too.

The Hands Off Our Forest campaign is gathering momentum and a petition form is printed here. It will also be available online on our website.

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