The Government has announced plans to create a new forest spanning more than 120 miles of land around the M62 motorway in the north of England.
Around 62,000 acres of land will be planted before 2050 in order to create new woodland around major cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Bradford.
The Government has pledged an initial £5.7m towards the project, which is the first attempt of its kind since planting of the National Forest began in the 1990s.
In total, the Northern Forest is expected to cost £500m, with the vast majority of funding coming from charitable sources.
Announcing the plans, Ms May said: “It is vital that we leave our planet in a better state than we found it, with cleaner air, stronger protections for animal welfare and greener spaces for everyone to enjoy.
“Progress is being made. We’re investing over £3bn in improving air quality, tackling marine pollution by banning harmful microbeads and increasing sentences for animal cruelty to five years.
“But to create an environment fit for the future we can’t stop there, and that is why we are supporting the creation of this new Northern Forest and will shortly be setting out our ambitious vision to further support the environment and protect its good health for generations to come.”
Planting is due to begin near Bolton in March and, in time, the Northern Forest will connect five existing community forests in the region: the Mersey Forest, Manchester City of Trees, South Yorkshire Community Forest, the Leeds White Rose Forest and the HEYwoods Project.
It forms part of the Government’s 25-year environmental strategy designed to make this “the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it”.
Mr Gove said: “Trees are some of our most cherished natural assets and living evidence of our investment for future generations.
“Not only are they a source of beauty and wonder, but a way to manage flood risk, protect precious species, and create healthier places for us to work and live.
“This new Northern Forest is an ambitious and exciting project that will create a vast ribbon of woodland cover in northern England stretching from coast to coast, providing a rich habitat for wildlife to thrive, and a natural environment for millions of people to enjoy. This new forest will help us deliver a Green Brexit and help to deliver on our pledge to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”
The Woodland Trust predicts the forest could add up to £2bn to the UK economy through increased tourism, job creation and a reduced impact of flooding.
Austin Brady, the organisation’s Director of Conservation, said: “The Northern Forest will accelerate the creation of new woodland and support sustainable management of existing woods right across the area.
“Planting many more trees, woods and forests will deliver a better environment for all – locking up carbon on a large scale, boosting wildlife habitat and greening our towns and cities.”
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