‘Length of Wales’ National forest planned
The Welsh government has launched plans for a new national forest that will run the length of the country.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the scheme would help protect nature and boost tourism.
The project will create a connected ecological network that will use newly-planted areas to join up existing woodland. People will eventually be able to walk the length of the forest, from one end of Wales to the other. The vision was inspired by the success of the Wales Coast Path, the world’s first coastal path to cover an entire country, which opened in 2012 and attracts millions of visitors each year.
Wales already has some 763,000 acres of woodland, 14.9% of its total land area, and a further 230,000 acres of tree cover outside of woodlands – soaking up 1.84m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year.
However, with the UK Committee on Climate Change calling for significant rises in tree planting to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets by 2050, opposition parties and environmental charities have warned that Wales is already lagging behind. Just 1,200 acres of new woodland were planted in Wales in 2018-19, out of a target of 4,900 acres.
Farmers have also expressed concerns over large-scale tree planting in Wales, claiming it could have “a devastating effect on agriculture and rural life”.
Glyn Roberts, president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales told BBC news that loss of agricultural land would “take away the backbone of our rural areas” and impact on the local economy.
“We have to look at the broad picture and not focus on one element when we’re talking about a complex issue like climate change. As farmers we have much more of an answer to the problem than people realise.”
Funding for the new forest will come from £5m allocated in the 2020 budget and a further £10m through Welsh government grants for farmers and other land managers to plant trees. Meetings and events will be held with businesses, landowners and communities to develop a viable plan for delivering the scheme, which the government and environmental charities say will include benefits such as flood prevention, improved air quality, help in regenerating soil for food and reversing biodiversity loss.
The Welsh government has launched plans for a new national forest that will run the length of the country.– First Minister Mark Drakeford