Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our latest 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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ANOTHER week, another industry leader making the case against the UK's tree-planting targets – and with good reason.

While your first thought may be something like 'how odd' or 'why would someone who loves trees want to see fewer in the ground?', the thinking behind this call to arms will be clear to just about anyone in forestry.

“The target is for tree planting, I believe it should be for tree establishment," Tony Kirkham, former head of arboretum at Kew Gardens, said during the recent Royal Horticultural Society autumn conference. "It shouldn’t be about targets for planting a number of trees it should be establishing trees. We can all plant a million trees, but will they be alive five years down the line and that’s what the problem is.”

The RHS went on. Billions of pounds of taxpayer money could be being wasted planting trees that end up dying because government tree targets are focused on planting rather than survival, officials argued, amid concern that saplings were dying because they are often neglected.


It won't take you long to think of countless examples of recent times where hundreds – if not thousands – of trees have been planted, only for most to end up dead. Take the infamous A14, where half a million of them had to be discarded due to poor planting practice and aftercare.

You may think it's a moot point. Barring a remarkable turnaround, the UK won't be getting near to its 30,000 hectares/annum goal by the end of this current parliament (not even 13,000 ha were planted last year), and very few in the industry are even pretending to aspire to it.

So maybe ahead of the run for Downing Street, the major political parties could reassess how they judge the industry.

Forestry Journal: Prime minister Rishi Sunak Image: PA

There really isn't any point in a planting target if we (we meaning the decision makers, not foresters or planting contractors) show little regard for how many of the trees make it to adulthood.