A new ten-year plan to enhance and protect trees and woodland has been adopted by Somerset Council. Amongst its ambitious aims, the strategy sets out a plan for planting 240 hectares of new trees and woodlands each year across the county until 2033.
From Somerset’s famous apple orchards and to Exmoor’s mighty oaks, this would increase the county’s tree coverage from its current 8% to the national average of 13% and more if possible.
Somerset Council’s priorities
As one of the council’s priorities to create a greener, more sustainable Somerset the strategy recognises the Council’s role in helping tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and has been developed in partnership with the Environment Agency, Somerset Local Nature Partnership, Exmoor National Park, Quantock Hills, AONB Partnership, The Forestry Commission and The Woodland Trust.
Built around five themes, the strategy seeks to strengthen the county’s bond with its trees, creating a ‘wood culture’ where the people of Somerset can access and be a part of caring about Somerset’s woodland.
The five themes of the tree strategy are:
- Create a Wood Culture: Where everyone understands the importance of trees to the county, its natural environment, and its communities.
- Make our trees resilient and adaptable: To climate change by protecting, expanding, managing, and diversifying our existing treescapes.
- Expand tree coverage in Somerset: Through planting initiatives, in urban and rural areas, to create cohesive and connected treescapes that include woodlands, parks, roadsides and urban spaces.
- Create a range of services and products: That allow our treescapes to contribute to society through local supply chains and the creation of natural capital opportunities.
- Create a sustainable and flexible governance structure: That ensures the successful implementation of the strategy over the next ten years.
Work is already underway with the creation of three new posts, funded through a successful bid to DEFRA’s Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund. With tasks including supporting existing tree groups and encouraging new ones, these roles are expected to be in place by the beginning of the summer.
As climate change brings warmer temperatures and more extreme weather conditions, the strategy also aims to make Somerset’s woodlands more resilient and adaptable to these changes by protecting, expanding, managing, and diversifying our existing treescapes.
Councillor Sarah Dyke, Lead Member for Environment and Climate Change said: “We have a rich history of trees in our landscapes, but our woodland cover is below the national average.
“This is a strategy that covers ecology, climate, and communities to enhance and protect its trees for the future and I would urge everyone to read it – there is no better way to help and be a part of your community than to make that difference by planting trees.
“It is a strategy that needs to belong to everyone: the council has a role to play, but we can all play a part. It’s not just about more trees, it’s about the right trees in the right places, and through these three new posts I believe we can make a real impact.”
Somerset Council has introduced a range of environmentally friendly initiatives which are crucial to fighting the climate crisis, protecting habitats and improving air quality. In terms of protecting and planting more trees, this is important for prioritising the existence of green spaces, along with biodiversity conservation.