Plan 'fails to meet forestry pledges'

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The Independent Online
PRIVATISATION plans for the Forestry Commission have taken precedence over pledges on forestry made at the Rio Earth Summit, environmentalists said yesterday.

They said that the document on forestry was the most disappointing of John Major's four-part plan on sustainable development.

The paper sums up existing policy on managing Britain's woodlands and forests, and welcomes comments on sustainable forestry in what appeared to be a holding exercise.

Around last Easter, the Government set up an inter-departmental Forestry Review Group to look at the implications of privatising the Forestry Commission. It will report to ministers shortly.

Simon Counsell, forests campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: 'Any national forestry plan that came close to meeting the pledges of Rio would commit the Government to timetables and new areas of forest.'

The risk is that this would contradict or undermine the conclusions of the Forestry Review Group, he said. 'The long-term requirements of sustainable forestry management in this country have succumbed to short-term economic requirements. With this plan, the Government is not going to meet the commitments it made at Rio.'

Ian Lang, the Cabinet minister in charge of forestry matters, said the United Kingdom and India were to collaborate on organising an international gathering later this year to help prepare for next year's meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development at which forestry will form a key theme.