The Woodland Trust is leading 47 cross-sector organisations* from across the UK in a call to celebrate, and secure the future of, our trees and woodland by creating a Charter for Trees, Woods and People. Our country’s woods and trees are facing unprecedented pressures from development, disease and climate change. They risk being neglected, undervalued and forgotten.
And the message from the partners is simple: we need to act now before it’s too late.
The call comes some 800 years after Henry III signed the Charter of the Forest (in 1217). The medieval decree re-established people’s rights to access and use England’s forests as all-important places to forage for food and firewood, and places for animals to graze. Today’s charter, with the importance of trees and woodland still firmly at the core, reaches out to every corner of the UK.
The charter will be rooted in individuals’ stories and memories; it will provide guidance and inspiration to shape government policy; and will seek to enlist Charter Champions who will inspire and rally friends and communities to stand up for trees and woodland. Funding will be available for local events and projects that reconnect people with nature.
Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland, said: “Our collective aim is for a charter that puts trees back at the heart of our lives and communities, and at the centre of decision-making. And we’re kicking the campaign off by asking local people to share their tree stories and memories, so that we can truly recognise the importance of trees to society.
“It’s a movement that’s particularly meaningful to Northern Ireland, where woodland has a turbulent history and, currently covering just 8 per cent of the land, is a scarce and precious resource.”
Chair of the Committee for the Environment, Ms Anna Lo MLA, added: “Trees are the ‘lungs of our planet’. They make an important contribution to our health and wellbeing, and we must value and cherish them. Initiatives such as this are a brilliant way of helping us reconnect with nature.”
Why do we need a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People?
The facts paint a worrying picture, with changing lifestyles, busy schedules, and increased ‘screen-time’ meaning that, today, many people feel disconnected from trees and woodland.
- Sixty per cent of wildlife species are in decline across the UK
- We are planting fewer trees than in previous years; and Northern Ireland ranks badly as one of the least wooded countries in the whole of Europe
- Trees and woods are hugely valuable for our health, happiness and our children’s development. Research shows that having trees close to residential areas encourages increased outdoor exercise; yet we have limited access to woodland in Northern Ireland
- Only 43 per cent of children in Northern Ireland receive the recommended hour of physical activity each day
Society and government need to stop taking trees for granted and recognise their huge contribution to our lives. Research for the Woodland Trust, by Europe Economics, found that UK woods and trees deliver £270 billion worth of benefits to society. This makes the call for a charter more important than ever before.
The Trust is on the lookout for Charter Champions, throughout the country, who will ensure their community is represented in this ambitious project. Join the team on 10 February at Crawfordsburn Country Park to find out more. For more details and to book a place, visit www.treecharter.uk
Pictured launching the campaign are the Woodland Trust’s director Patrick Cregg and tree lady Rosie Irwin; with Anna Lo MLA, Chair of the Assembly’s Environment Committee.