Guide for using the Woodland Opportunity Map

Friends of the Earth, supported by the mapping consultancy Terra Sulis and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, have launched the first ever map and league table of existing and opportunity woodland in every local authority in England. This is a guide to help you make the most of our Woodland Opportunity Map in your area.

19 Nov 2020

Key findings of our Woodland Opportunity map

The Woodland Opportunity Map and report reveals that it would be possible to almost double woodland cover in England from its current level of 10% without encroaching on high-value arable farmland, Priority Habitats, peat bogs or protected nature sites[1].

Here are some of the highlights of the research:

  • In 34 local authority areas, there is the potential to at least triple woodland cover.
  • In 63 local authority areas, there is the potential to at least double woodland cover.
  • In 112 local authority areas, there is the potential to increase woodland cover by at least 50%.
  • In 160 local authority areas, there is the potential to increase woodland cover by at least 25%.

To use our online map, enter your postcode and click the map to see existing and opportunity woodland cover in your local authority area:

  • “NFI existing woodland” refers to the percentage of the local authority area that is already covered in woodland, as measured by the government’s National Forest Inventory (NFI).
  • “Future opportunity” refers to the percentage of the local authority area identified in the study as potentially suitable for woodland creation.

Check out our league table below the map to see how your local authority area is ranked with others. 

Don’t worry if ‘Future opportunity’ in your area is low, The woodland opportunity map only measures woodland. It does not identify the potential of trees in urban areas – such as street trees, public parks and gardens – due to data limitations. Including these would highlight significantly more opportunities to grow trees in England. Several urban councils, including Blackpool, Bristol, Hackney, Leeds and Wigan have committed to double tree cover within their local authority areas.  Also, some high value agricultural land that is not recorded as opportunity woodland could incorporate trees, eg through agroforestry (see below).

For land that has been classified as opportunity woodland, further research and consultation is required to assess its suitability for woodland creation, and importantly, we need to work in cooperation with the custodians of the land who manage it, and know it well. Changes to how land is used to tackle the climate and nature crises should be part of a just transition where farmers and rural communities are key stakeholders in identifying opportunities, designing and implementing solutions, and are fairly rewarded for converting land to woodlands or integrating trees on their farms.

Share the map with local media

If there is significant opportunity woodland in your local authority area, why not share the map with your local newspaper and other media outlets, to spread the message about what can be done locally to grow more trees and take climate action?

We drafted a template press release below, which you can send to local newspapers. Please feel free to change it and add information about your area. For more information, check out our guide for writing press releases.

You can also send the press release to local TV and radio stations. If you are invited for an interview, see our guide for giving media interviews.

It is vital that the press release you send to the local media outlets is embargoed for 25th of November or later. This means that they will not be able to report the story until that date, which is when our national media story will be launched. It is important that local news stories are not published before then.

Template press release

Friends of the Earth reveals land to boost woodland cover in [local authority name] ahead of National Tree Week

  • Environmental campaigners mark National Tree Week (30th November – 6th December) with map of local woodland creation opportunities across the country
  • Woodland cover in England can be doubled from current level of 10%, without impact on important habitats and farmland
  • [local authority name] has potential to reach [xx]% tree cover

Friends of the Earth and mapping consultancy Terra Sulis, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, have launched the first ever map of existing and potential woodland in every local authority in England.

Ahead of National Tree Week (30th November to 6th December), this reveals that it is possible to double woodland cover in England from its current level of 10% without encroaching on high-value arable farmland, Priority Habitats, peat bogs or protected nature sites. Much of the opportunity land for woodland is low grade farmland, which means it’s crucial that government supports farmers to grow more trees on their land.

[Local Authority name] currently has woodland cover of [xx]%. Friends of the Earth’s analysis shows that this could be increased to [xx]%. [detail on where the opportunities are]. The environmental campaigners call on [local council name] to commit to boosting woodland cover, but it’s also crucial that central government support and funding is in place. Friends of the Earth say a national tree cover target should be included in the England Tree Strategy, which is expected this winter.

Use Friends of the Earth’s online map, enter your postcode and click the map to see existing and opportunity for woodland cover in your local authority area. You can also see a table showing the Local Authorities with the largest woodland creation opportunity. Download the full dataset here.

The map only covers potential woodland and does not include opportunities for trees in urban areas - such as street trees, public parks and gardens. Including these would highlight significantly more opportunities to grow trees in England. Indeed, several urban councils, including Blackpool, Bristol, Hackney, Leeds and Wigan have already committed to double tree cover within their local authority areas.

[Campaigner name], [local group name] Friends of the Earth campaigner, said:

“Having more trees in [name of local authority] would help us fight climate breakdown while enabling more people to access nature in their local area. We need [local council name] to step up and help us create more woodland, but it’s time that ministers in Westminster take the climate crisis seriously. We're calling on central government to mark next week’s National Tree Week by setting a target in the England Tree Strategy to boost woodland across the country.”

Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:

“This mapping research shows the game changing potential of local climate action. Trees are a highly valuable natural solution to address the climate crisis, so I’m delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting research into woodland creation and tree planting in communities across the country.”

ENDS

For more information contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649 / 07718 394786 (out of hours – please do not text this number) or by emaling media@foe.co.uk [change this to local contact details]

Notes to editors

  1. Use Friends of the Earth’s online map, enter your postcode and click the map to see existing and opportunity woodland cover in your local authority area.
    1. “NFI existing woodland” refers to the percentage of the local authority area that is already covered in woodland, as measured by the government’s National Forest Inventory (NFI).
    2. “Future opportunity” refers to the percentage of the local authority area identified in the study as potentially suitable for woodland creation. 
  2. Full local authority dataset, showing current and potential woodland in hectares and land percentage, can be downloaded here.
  3. The data for existing woodland is sourced from the government’s National Forest Inventory, the most comprehensive survey of woodlands in England. This covers any woodland in Great Britain of at least 0.5 hectares in area with a minimum width of 20 m, and that have at least 20% tree canopy cover.
  4. To calculate opportunity woodland, the study excluded:
    1. Good quality farmland (grades 1 – 3a).
    2. Priority habitats.
    3. Upland peat bogs.
    4. Protected areas designated for the conservation of habitats and species (such as SSSIs).
    5. Urban areas, non-agricultural land and water bodies.
    6. Pasture land that hasn't been ploughed for a number of years because some of these might be valuable for more diverse plant life.
    7. Existing woodland.
  5. The data focusses on potential woodland creation and does not include trees in urban areas – such as street trees, public parks and gardens. Many urban areas however do have opportunities to grow more trees. Several urban councils, including Blackpool, Bristol, Hackney, Leeds and Wigan have committed to double tree cover within their local authority areas. The data also doesn’t reflect opportunities for agroforestry – planting trees on farmland.
  6. Limitations in official data mean the woodland opportunity map has not comprehensively excluded all potentially sensitive sites. For example, the Government’s maps of species-rich grassland are incomplete, and more research needs to be carried out about the locations of these biodiverse meadows. Before starting a woodland creation program, it is vital to undertake an ecological survey. Important archaeological sites also need to be excluded, which may need to be done on a case-by-case basis.
  7. Friends of the Earth wants to double tree cover as part of our fight against climate and nature breakdown. Doubling tree cover could remove 10% of the planet-wrecking emissions in the UK annually.   
  8. Find out more about Friends of the Earth’s tree campaign, and sign the petition calling for the government to double tree cover, by visiting friendsoftheearth.uk/trees
  9. Friends of the Earth’s tree campaign is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery
  10. About Friends of the Earth: Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/ follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page. [Feel free to add details of websites and social media profiles for you local groups here]

Share the map on social media

Why not share the woodland opportunity map on social media? You can use the hashtag #WoodlandOpportunity – this will help us all to see what each other are sharing.

Here’s an example of a tweet you could write:
This new #WoodlandOpportunity map shows we could increase woodland cover in [LOCAL AUTHORITY NAME] from [X%] to [X%]. @[COUNCILLOR NAME] can you support setting an ambitious local tree cover target?
https://takeclimateaction.uk/woodland-opportunity-mapping-england

Share the map with local landowners and land managers

Much of the opportunity woodland identified is low-grade farmland. Do you know any farmers or other landowners who manage land that is identified as opportunity woodland in the map. This could be a very sensitive subject for some farmers, who may have been working on the land for a long time.  For many, farming is a culture and a way of life, and this needs to be respected and understood.  We need to bring people together to identify opportunities, and devise locally appropriate solutions.

Adding more trees to a landscape doesn’t necessarily mean woodland.  There are so many ways to integrate trees into farms – such as finding unused corners of fields and underproductive areas, or riparian planting along water courses to prevent soil erosion.  Agroforestry is an option that has huge potential and covers a range of approaches - from growing thicker, taller hedgerows,  to planting shelter belts, growing trees amongst livestock, arable crops or even vegetables, and woodland grazing.   Agroforestry, can help boost farm productivity and diversify production, so it’s good for business as well as helping the climate and nature. 

Share the map with your councillors and MP

If you live in an area with significant opportunity for more woodland, can you share the map with your local councillors?

The most important person to contact in your local council is the person responsible for tree policy. This is usually the Environment Cabinet Member or Committee Chair. We recommend emailing your local councillors, to ask them who is responsible for tree policy. Click on this link and enter your postcode to find out contact details for your councillors: https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-councillors

At least 12 councils have already made commitments to double tree cover and this map could help you secure this commitment from your council!

Here are some key messages you could share with your councillors:

  • Highlight existing and opportunity woodland cover in your local authority area.
  • Share a link to the woodland opportunity map and league table.
  • Explain that the woodland opportunity map does not include trees in urban areas, such as public parks and pavements, therefore it underestimates the potential for new trees in towns and cities.
  • If the council has not set a long-term tree cover target for the local authority area, why not ask them to create one? The tree cover target could include woodlands, agroforestry and urban trees.
  • Does the council own land as part of its estate?  If so it could encourage its tenant farmers to grow more trees and support agroforestry.

Can you also share the findings of the woodland opportunity map with your local MP? To find contact details for your MP, check out this website.

Feedback

We’d love to hear your thoughts about the woodland mapping tool. Please take a minute to fill in our quick survey: https://friendsoftheearth.typeform.com/to/LSj1FRxe

Notes on Methodology

It is important to note that because of limitations in official data, the woodland opportunity map has not comprehensively excluded all potentially sensitive sites. For example, the Government’s maps of species-rich grassland are incomplete, and more research needs to be carried out about the locations of these biodiverse meadows. Before starting a woodland creation program, it is vital to undertake an ecological survey at a local level. Important archaeological sites also need to be excluded, which may need to be done on a case-by-case basis.

The woodland opportunity map uses national datasets to assess potential woodland cover. To assess the suitability of local sites for woodland creation, this data should be supplemented with local datasets, including Local Wildlife Sites, County Wildlife Sites and Local Environmental Records Centres data on priority habitats.

The data for existing woodland is sourced from the Forestry Commission’s National Forest Inventory, the most comprehensive survey of woodlands in England. This covers any woodland in Great Britain of at least 0.5 hectares in area with a minimum width of 20 m, and that have at least 20% tree canopy cover.

To calculate opportunity woodland, the study excluded:

  • Good quality farmland (grades 1 – 3a).
  • Priority habitats.
  • Upland peat bogs.
  • Protected areas designated for the conservation of habitats and species (such as SSSIs).
  • Urban areas, non-agricultural land and water bodies.
  • Pasture land that hasn't been ploughed for a number of years because some of these might be valuable for more diverse plant life.
  • Existing woodland.

[1] Please note, as stated in our methodology section, because of limitations in official data, the woodland opportunity map has not comprehensively excluded all potentially sensitive sites. Before starting a woodland creation program, it is vital to undertake an ecological survey at a local level.

Trees