Extinction Rebellion to rescue and plant 30,000 oak trees as government planting efforts falter

Crowdfunding effort secures trees and land on which to plant them as nurseries warn they still face having to burn hundreds of thousands of saplings

Harry Cockburn
Monday 04 January 2021 15:50 GMT
Hundreds of thousands of oak saplings could be burnt after demand for trees slumps, despite government promises to boost planting levels
Hundreds of thousands of oak saplings could be burnt after demand for trees slumps, despite government promises to boost planting levels

Extinction Rebellion activists are to rescue and plant at least 30,000 oak saplings across the country after nursery owners said they could be forced to destroy hundreds of thousands of trees because of delays to government tree planting programmes.

More than 750,000 young oak trees face being burnt after growers said the government’s promise to treble the rate of tree planting had failed to materialise and there was now little demand for the saplings.

Extinction Rebellion has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to purchase the trees already growing and has put in an initial order for 30,000 oak saplings after raising over £10,000.

The affiliated group Extinction Rebellion Rewilding announced its Save the Oaks campaign “following unprecedented response from groups and individuals who have pledged to buy and plant these oaks throughout the UK.”

Save the Oaks has received more than 160 applications through its website from individuals and groups across the UK offering to plant the oak saplings in their region.

Natasha Somers from Save the Oaks said: “The support we’ve seen is a testament to how a community can come together in difficult times. From the applications we’ve seen so far, it's clear that people want to act for a better future, one where humanity and nature are connected.

“Oaks are symbolic of strength and resilience, qualities which we will need going into our collective future. With that in mind, we are inviting more people to get involved in this next phase of the campaign - we want to give anyone that wants to plant and care for some oaks the chance to take part.”

Mike Harvey, the managing director of Maelor Forest Nurseries near Wrexham, had planted 800,000 oaks two years ago following the government’s tree planting pledges. He is selling the trees for 22p each to Extinction Rebellion following the campaign, but said he still faces having to destroy 500,000 of them.

He said: “We are delighted that these oak saplings have found good homes. We were devastated at the prospect of having to destroy plants, which we had spent two years growing and nurturing, only to find they ultimately were being left without a future for reasons beyond our control.

“To leave the crop in the field and remove it unsold in its third year would have been prohibitively costly, but thanks to the interest in the trees we have been able to find a home for most of them, as well as our following crop. A fresh crop of acorns will be sown once the trees are removed.”

“We had several charities and organisations approach us for these trees with Extinction Rebellion Rewilding securing the largest of these orders. Tree planting is an absolute necessity if we are to mitigate our impact on the environment.”

Nurseries have also suggested many landowners planning to plant trees are delaying their plans in the hope larger government subsidies are on the horizon for planting schemes.

Levels of tree planting across England are still far below the level needed to meet government targets and reduce the impact of the climate crisis.

Boris Johnson has said he is aiming to plant 30,000 hectares of new forest a year across the whole of the UK by 2050. But in Autumn, following a fall in planting levels, the Green Party described planting rates as “tragically inadequate”.

Cambridge-based ecologist Kevin Hand, who previously ran the government-backed National Tree Week, is supporting the Save the Oaks campaign.

He said: “We hope this will highlight all the positive, creative work which Extinction Rebellion groups do to combat climate heating and extinction of wildlife, locally and globally. The covid crisis can be viewed as yet another symptom of us humans interacting negatively with nature.”

Save the Oaks co-founder, James Murray-White, said: “This is a hopeful radical act of love for the planet for now and going forward to the future.

“Wherever you plant your oaks, in a shelter belt or in the pockets and corners of the land you have available, we encourage you to care and nurture a relationship with them – through simple things like holding a planting ceremony.”

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