Open letter to the Duchy of Cornwall and Church Commissioners
To the Duchy of Cornwall and the Church Commissioners,
Trees are a vital part of the fight against climate breakdown and provide homes for many species of wildlife.
Friends of the Earth’s new research has found, however, that your estates have startlingly low levels of woodland cover – 3% of the Church Commissioners’ landholdings, and 6% woodland cover in the case of the Duchy of Cornwall. England as a whole is 10% wooded. Out of the top ten institutional landowners in England, your two organisations ranked last in terms of woodland cover.
As two of the country’s largest landowners, we urge you to do more. The Duchy’s support for environmentally-friendly farming is world-famous, and the Church Commissioners' commitment to reach net zero is a good first step. But it’s clear that all landowners need to do more to restore lost habitats and invest in nature-based solutions to climate change.
Other large landowners are stepping up to make ambitious commitments to increase woodland cover on their estates, from the National Trust to water companies.1
We appreciate that your estates also contain other precious habitats that need protecting and restoring – and we are certainly not proposing any expansion of tree cover that would damage these. Friends of the Earth’s mapping shows that it's possible to double England’s woodland cover without impacting on other Priority Habitats, designated sites or valuable farmland. Nor are we suggesting simply prioritising quantity of trees over quality of new habitat – we'd love to see more landowners encouraging the natural regeneration of scrub and saplings, with more land being rewilded.
We would be delighted to meet with you to discuss the findings of our research further and provide assistance with mapping suitable land for trees.
Campaigner, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
1 The National Trust has announced it will increase woodland cover on its
estate by 18,000 hectares by 2030. The UK water industry has committed to planting 11 million trees by 2030.