EARLIER this month, our Forestry Features newsletter (available every Wednesday) took a look at what the candidates to be the new prime minister had said about tree planting.

At that time, there were enough runners and riders to invade a small nation, but the gist was, unsurprisingly, that the words 'tree', 'timber' or 'forestry' hadn't passed the lips of any of them. The only brief mention the topic got was when one of the erstwhile candidates told of her desire to get rid of net-zero targets (which, we're told, are bad for business).  

Since then, we've had TV debates, more words committed to print on the topic than seems possible, and only Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss remain. So it seems like an ideal time to take stock of the situation once again. 

In August's excellent Letter from the Editor – which you'll be able to read when the magazine drops next week – John McNee did just that, and, without wishing to reveal too many spoilers, it seems things are ... exactly as they were. 

To describe tree planting, forestry, and the timber industry as an 'afterthought' in the race to be PM would be verging on the kind of hyperbole more readily associated with an overenthusiastic pen salesman than a serious publication. And it might sound like we're banging a tired old drum, but we're doing so for a reason. 

That's why it made for pleasant reading this week to see that members of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) will explore how best to scale up a sustainable and resilient domestic timber sector. Announced shortly after August's FJ went to press, the inquiry will also look at how the UK can reduce its reliance on imports (a reminder, we are the second-largest net-importer, with 80 per cent of our wood coming from overseas), and the link between these and deforestation overseas. 

Encouragingly, EAC chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “We must make sure the domestic timber industry is fit for the future and can support our net zero ambitions, while better understanding the impact any imports have on the wider world." 

For Confor, the industry body that's been banging the drum since before FJ could play the triangle, the inquiry is also welcome news. 

Stuart Goodall, CEO, said: "We have constantly stressed the need to develop a sustainable productive forestry and timber industry in the UK, to grow more of the wood we consume, rather than relying on ever-increasing imports against a backdrop of surging global demand for wood.

Forestry Journal: Outgoing PM Boris Johnson has been criticised for his government's tree-planting 'failures' Outgoing PM Boris Johnson has been criticised for his government's tree-planting 'failures'

"Confor looks forward to giving evidence to this inquiry to start addressing these vital issues. The inquiry should be ambitious - to grow the UK's forestry and wood industry sustainably, while tackling climate change and reducing pressure on fragile global forests."

Growing the UK forestry industry is something we've heard before. Maybe this time it'll actually happen. 

Or, at the very least, Sunak or Truss might mention it between now and when Boris Johnson is removed from Downing Street. The clock is ticking. 

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

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