Voices of Forestry presents analysis and insight from people working all across the forestry sector. In a special column to mark National Tree Week, Sir William Worsley, chair of the Forestry Commission, explores the need to bring more of the UK's woodlands into active management. 

IT is currently National Tree Week – a week that marks the beginning of another tree planting season and an opportunity to champion the importance of the trees, woodlands and forests at the heart of communities around the country. 

Alongside Defra, the Forestry Commission is making significant progress towards increasing tree cover across the country to 16.5 per cent. But, as tree planting across the country increases, it is vital that woodlands are well managed and resilient to withstand threats of climate change, pests and diseases.

We need to bring more woods into management – currently less than half of the area covered by broadleaves is under management in England. This needs to change if we are to have resilient forests for the future. Well-managed broadleaf woodlands provide habitat for a vast array of flora and fauna, whilst conifers and mixed woodland also contribute to biodiversity.


Well-managed woodland is also absolutely crucial for a thriving domestic timber industry. The UK imports more than 80 per cent of our timber, and stepping up domestic timber production is a key part of reaching net zero. Alongside this, active management can increase biodiversity; and lead to more carbon sequestration, which is vital to restoring nature and increasing the health and wellbeing of our communities.

As many of you will know, there are a whole host of ways to manage your woodland.

These include the thinning and selected removal of some trees to ensure the strongest are not competing with other trees for light, space and nutrients and to maximise growth potential. Increasing light levels can encourage greater regeneration of trees from fallen seeds, increasing the diversity of the age and genetic diversity of the trees within the crop, and boosting resilience. 

Alternative management techniques can also be effective, such as tackling weeds or invasive non-native plants, through cutting, rolling or using a herbicide treatment.

The installation of fences or tree guards can help mitigate the damaging effects on young trees which can be caused by deer. Regular monitoring and mitigating action for other pests and diseases, including grey squirrels, is also essential to ensure a resilient treescape for future generations.

Forestry Journal: At present, just 44 per cent of the UK's woodlands are sustainably managed At present, just 44 per cent of the UK's woodlands are sustainably managed (Image: FJ/Stock/Jack Haugh)

There are many ways the Forestry Commission can help bring your woodland into management. We have launched the Woods Into Management Innovation fund which aims to bring an additional 20,000 hectares of existing woodland into active management. This will help boost biodiversity and protect against pests and diseases.

But we know there is more to do. We must continue to take action to ensure our trees and woodlands are resilient as we increase tree planting across the country.

The Forestry Commission will continue to work with Defra and our partners to bring more woodlands into management, so that as many people as possible can enjoy their benefits both now, and in the future.

National Tree Week is the UK's largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season. It is taking place until December 3.