Latest news on trees

What you can do to highlight the importance of trees during the pandemic, and update on the English Tree Strategy, and more.

19 May 2020

Our thoughts are with everyone who is suffering as a result of the pandemic. We hope you are managing as well as you can at this difficult time. 

Highlighting the importance of trees during the pandemic

It is totally understandable if you want to put environmental campaigning on the backburner to focus on your own wellbeing and that of friends, families and the community during the Covid-19 crisis.   

However, we know that some of you will want to channel your energy into campaigning. It was great to hear from many of you at our webinar on 15 April about how you’re managing to adapt your campaigning during this time.  

For those of you who would like to continue campaigning for more trees, here are just a few ideas of things you can do during lockdown:   

  • Research trees in your area. What is existing tree cover in your local authority area? How has tree cover in your area changed over time? What are your councils’ existing tree policies and targets? See our campaign guide for tools on how to find this out. 

  • Share photos of trees that are helping your wellbeing. For example, Manchester FOE recently ran a “Photogratree competition ” for people to take photos of special trees in the local area. The Guardian also run a weekly Tree of the Week feature. Get in touch with rose.taylor@foe.gov.uk for more information on submitting an entry to this. 

  • Give an online presentation about the trees campaign using our template presentation slides. Feel free to customise it to make it relevant for your community. 

Current government restrictions have also highlighted the importance of public access to nature. Daily walks have become something to treasure, but not everyone has equal access to gardens or parks.

So we’ve been running a mini-action to try to get councils to open up more green spaces during lockdown so that people can exercise safely whilst social distancing.

Supporters in London have been asking councils to turn municipal golf courses into temporary parks, and several councils have responded to say their courses are open for the public to walk in – which is great! 

Council pledges to double tree cover

Meanwhile, 11 councils have now pledged to double tree cover in their areas – some of whom have written to Minister Zac Goldsmith urging the Government to commit to this target too.  

At the moment, the UK government and local governments are prioritising dealing with the immediate public health crisis. Our guidance therefore is that you only campaign on issues that are urgent and that you communicate sensitively to decision makers and your own community.  

With this guidance in mind, you may want to look into how your council is thinking about the use of nature and green spaces within their reponse to the pandemic and, if appropriate, ask them to commit to doubling tree cover

Finally, our fantastic legal team recently sent a letter to Ministers warning that the Government could be in breach of its legal duties on forestry and climate change if it fails to improve its ‘inadequate’ tree cover targets. Read our lawyers’ letter in full.

English Tree Strategy consultation

Despite the pandemic, the Forestry Minister Zac Goldsmith is keen to launch the English Tree Strategy soon, which will determine how many trees we grow in England over the next few years. 

Thanks to everyone who’s taken part in our action to tweet at Zac Goldsmith urging him to an include a target to double tree cover in the forthcoming Strategy. 

Over 150,000 people have now signed our petition, and over 3,000 tweets were sent to Zac Goldsmith making him aware of this fact – we’ve now had a response from him acknowledging our petition so we know he’s got the message! 

And for those of you without Twitter, never fear – we’re going to be needing everyone’s help again shortly. We’ve been told that the consultation on the English Tree Strategy is meant to be launched soon. 

When it’s published, we’ll be providing a briefing for local groups on how to respond, as well as a supporter email action to enable submissions en masse.

But quality of response will be more important than sheer quantity – so we’re very keen that local groups who have been campaigning on trees make more detailed submissions if you can. We’ll send round the briefing shortly after the consultation document is published so watch this space. 

Coming up

Our next quarterly webinar will be on 15 July. Register to chat to the campaign team.

And in the meantime, you can always keep in touch at trees@foe.co.uk or in our campaign Facebook group.

Trees