TAX, immigration, benefits, and the cost of living crisis. What do all these things have in common? Unless you've been staying well clear of it (and who could blame you?) you'll have noticed these topics have all been front and centre of the race to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister. 

We've had Rishi Sunak - the former chancellor, no less - on what he'll do to help families with their bills. On another day, there was Suella Braverman, making some rather controversial claims about Universal Credit. Elsewhere, Grant Shapps made sure to weigh in on the 'culture wars'. 

But one topic appears to have (shamefully) failed to draw even a passing mention from any of the candidates; and that's just what they'll do to turn around Britain's tree-planting failures. 

By now you'll be all too aware the UK has failed year-on-year to hit ambitious planting targets set out at the start of Johnson's premiership.

As of the latest statistics, released in June, just 13,840 hectares had been planted in the 12 months prior to March 2022, around a third of the government's goal of 30,000 ha each year by the end of 2025. The figure was only slightly higher than 2021's total of 13,410 ha.

At the time it drew the usual criticism and promises to do better, only for the PM, the man behind the targets, to finally resign from his office just a month later. 

Was this the fresh start the UK needed to hit its targets? Confor, the trade body certainly hoped so, with chief executive Stuart Goodall saying at the time: "Put simply - keep the ambition, but get stuck into delivery. Less rhetoric, more trees in the ground, please, new prime minister."

Forestry Journal: Stuart GoodallStuart Goodall

Yet here we are, nearly a fortnight into the hunt for a new PM, and tree-planting is so far from the thoughts of any of the candidates, you'd need one of NASA's fancy new telescopes to see it. 

The closest mention of anything to do with trees came from Kemi Badenoch, who branded net zero "unilateral economic disarmament". 

That has to change and it has to change before it's too late.

This piece is an extract from today’s Forestry Features newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Wednesday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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