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CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK: We need to keep our trees

WITH the disaster of climate change looming, the preservation of trees is more important today than ever before, in order to reverse effects of greenhouse gases and pollution.

Multiple political parties have agreed to tackling the ecological emergency in words, yet not much action is being taken.

Wirral campaign group For Trees was formed in light of the absence of binding legislation, resulting in the ongoing removal and loss of tree cover, tree stocks and hedgerows, as well as the profiteering of contractors involved in surveying, condemning and removing them.

The group says that even where legislation is in place — such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1991, which forbids felling, lopping, topping of trees during the nesting season — it is not effectively enforced.

According to a freedom of information request by For Trees secretary Louise Stothard, Wirral council spends £220,000 on felling per year.

“Felling has no justification,” she said. “There is no scientific reason for any tree to come down.

“Felling is being driven by the ‘risk industry,’ creating concerns that trees are a risk to health and safety, but the real risk on people is removing trees. The chances of being killed by a tree is one in 120 million. It’s an outrage.”

For Trees has been in permanent negotiation with local authorities, government officers, MPs, NGOs and landowners to curb the removal of trees, hedges and tree cover, and organises direct actions and negotiation where contractors are on site to prevent the — often illegal — felling of and damage to trees.

Campaigners organised a public rally at the site of a council felling programme at one of their local parks, Ashton Park, and in line with their manifesto, For Trees have been running an education campaign to highlight the value of trees as natural resources and the benefits of environmental protection.

For Trees is recognised Wirral-wide through campaigning work such as house-to-house flyering and through local press coverage. They have also had successive meetings and negotiations with their local authority, but campaigners lament that they have had no positive results over the last four years.

In fact, earlier this year Wirral Borough Council issued a censoring order forbidding Stothard to communicate with any council officer on the subject of trees for a two-year period for being a “vexatious complainant.”

But the campaigners are very hopeful that there is future in dialogue with local councillors, many of whom say their are concerned at the scale and frequency of tree loss on Merseyside.

Campaigners hope that local authorities up and down the country will see the need for a tree protection strategy, wedded to an environmental protection strategy in their own constituencies.

“However, as negotiation and dialogue have failed over a four-year period — and as time is running out for our trees — it seems that direct actions may increasingly be required in the future to make any impact upon the policy decisions and strategies of our government and local government as it affects the future of our trees, our environment and ourselves,” Stothard added.

While tree-planting efforts in England have failed to meet government targets, Scotland has surpassed its targets for planting more trees across the country, and represents a total of 84 per cent of all new planting across Britain.

In Scotland alone, around 9.5 million tonnes of CO2 are removed from the atmosphere each year through forests — a clear example of why an increase in tree planting is vital in the fight against climate change.

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