More than 50 million trees are to be planted to create a new forest in northern England, it was announced Sunday by British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Swathes of mixed native broadleaf woodland will be created in and around Leeds and other major urban centres in the North to create a 120-mile stretch of forest between Liverpool and Hull.
The Woodland Trust says 13% of the United Kingdom is covered by woodland and the north of England has just 7.6% of cover.
"A new Northern Forest could accelerate the benefits of community forestry, support landscape scale working for nature, deliver a wide range of benefits, including helping to reduce flood risk, and adapt some of the U.K.'s major towns and cities to projected climate change", Austin Brady of the Woodland Trust, which is overseeing the project in collaboration with the Community Forests Trust, said in a statement.
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This map illustrates the extent of the planting initiative, which includes major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Chester and Hull.
"You simply can't compare the biodiversity value of new sticks in the ground with ancient forest", he said.
Tree planting rates are dramatically low with tree planting in 2016 being only 700 hectares against the Government's target of 5000 hectares a year; there is a need for drastic change. We need to make sure we are protecting our most important habitats such as ancient woodland as well as investing in new major woodland creation schemes.
The Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust estimate the new forest, with its breath-taking scenery and landscape, will generate more than 2.7 billion US dollars for the British economy.
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"The North of England is perfectly suited to reap the benefits of a project on this scale". 'A haven'Farmers and landowners could also be incentivised through grants to help plant new woodland.
Five existing community forests are within the proposed area for the Northern Forest including City of Trees, White Rose Forest, Mersey Forest, HEYwoods and South Yorkshire Forest. By planting numerous tree in river valleys, its also expected that the project could save more than 190,000 homes from future flood risks, as well as locking up more than 7 million tons of carbon. "We welcome the government support for the idea and we are looking forward to accelerating the work of the Community Forest Trust across the Northern Forest".
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "Trees are some of our most cherished natural assets and living evidence of our investment for future generations".
"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". It is hoped the plan will help deliver environmental, social and economic benefits through the creation of new woodland and sustainable management of existing woods.
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