Rural campaign group launch petition to ‘save Wales from mass tree planting’
A rural campaign group have launched a petition calling on the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales to stop purchasing productive farmland for tree planting.
Countryside Alliance Wales said that while tree planting “does bring benefits” to the environment, both the Government and private companies should not be planting trees on land which can be used for farming.
They pointed to the purchase of the 94 hectares of Brownhill farm in Carmarthenshire to plant a Covid memorial woodland, and the announcement that new woodlands would be planted at the National Trust’s Erddig estate in Wrexham, as evidence of this practice.
They said that the purchase of productive farmland “threatens food security and self-dependency” and “our fragile rural communities, heritage, culture and the Welsh language”.
The Welsh Government has previously said that they have attempted to avoid valuable agricultural land when purchasing plots for tree planting.
At the Brownhill site near Llangadog, Natural Resources Wales bought lots “containing a large percentage of wetlands, brushwood and woodlands,” they said.
“In order to create 43,000 hectares of new woodland by 2030, some land will need to change usage from agricultural use to woodland and we want farmers to be central to this, but the woodlands will be created for local communities in consultation with local communities,” they said.
The Countryside Alliance Wales petition also urges the Government to protect farming communities from private companies, who are buying up productive farmland, to offset their carbon emissions from elsewhere.
In the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold earlier last year to Foresight Group – a multi-billion pound private equity firm based in The Shard.
It plans to plant thousands of trees across the valley, prompting locals to launch a fightback, arguing that the afforestation will be largely made up of conifers that could damage soil and have a negative impact on the landscape.
The petition says: “The Countryside Alliance fully understands the need to plant trees to address the climate crisis, however, the current policy of using prime agricultural land will take agricultural land favourable for growing food out of production for generations.
“Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about the number of companies purchasing productive farmland for tree planting to offset their carbon emissions and feel that the Welsh Government should further protect our communities from this practice”.
It adds: “The Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales should be meeting the challenges of the biodiversity and the climate change crisis by supporting regenerative farming and working landscapes. Trees are part of a working landscape and can be supported through farming schemes, but it is about having the right tree in the right place and demonstrating that tree planting needs to work in harmony with food production.”
Rachel Evans, Director of Countryside Alliance Wales said that they could not stand by and allow prime agricultural land in Wales to disappear.
“Doing so risks destroying generations of vital farming heritage,” she said. “Rightly, we are talking more and more about food security and the need for self-dependency, but this will be hampered if there is less land for farming to take place.
“Clearly, there needs to be balance and while tree planting does bring benefits, future projects need to be considered alongside the potential impact on local communities and the ability to produce food here in Wales.
“The Welsh Government have an ambitious aim of planting more and more trees, which may well make for short-term flashy PR, but it’s rural people who are left with the aftermath of tree planting projects that just haven’t been thought through. We urge people living in Wales to sign our petition today.”
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