A long-running saga takes a new turn as Tanarus responds to Confor's defence of its record.


Stuart Goodall’s response to my November Diary leaves me somewhat bemused.

He rightly identifies the public lack of sympathy with commercial objectives in the forest as leaving the field (or should I say the forest?) open to the blandishments of the environmental lobby, who clearly have a more effective PR department if the coverage they achieve in the national press is anything to go by.


I naively assumed that addressing this public image was probably the prime objective of Confor, but face it, as the spearhead representing our industry it’s not much fun, is it? We need a lobby group with personality and energy – one which understands the media, press relations and politics. Sphagnum moss enthusiasts get more coverage on the telly. Have you watched any episodes of BBC’s Farming Life, which manages to glorify Scottish hill sheep farming but with no mention at all of forestry?

Come on Confor, make some noise! We have a terrific message. Shout it out, please!

Yours aye,


My favourite political commentator, John Crace in The Guardian, recently quoted an old philosophical thought with a real ‘forest flavour’, but which I confess not to have heard of before: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

He was using the conundrum to send up poor old Rishi Sunak who had just made a speech bragging about his achievements with ‘no-one’ there to hear it. 

This made me think how the same forest-focussed philosophy might well be applied to the recent succession of environment ministers – 10 since 2010. They have all talked the talk on tree planting, woodland and forestry, but failed to walk the walk, leaving an increasingly inattentive audience who now wouldn’t believe what they were told, even if they were there and listening. 

I hope things will be different under Steve Barclay, but early indications don’t look good. Shortly after his appointment, Barclay said he would be “working to back British farming and fisheries”. What happened to forestry, Steve?

Forestry Journal: Steve BarclaySteve Barclay

With DEFRA and the Forestry Commission splashing out for multiple-page advertisements in farming magazines, you would have thought the intention for a close connection between farming and forestry was obvious even to a novice environment secretary. 

Forestry Journal’s website recently ran an item titled ‘What are the new environment secretary’s forestry credentials?’. Frankly I have no idea, but I did read a headline in The Guardian (15 November 2023) which said: ‘New environment secretary given £3,000 by funder of climate sceptic thinktank’. Or was it ‘septic tank’? You work it out. 

Dr Terry Mabbett