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Joint project creating lasting woodland legacy

15 March 2022 : Council news, Community, Environment

Somerset West and Taunton Council and Exmoor National Park Authority are partnering to create a new joint Woodland Creation Officer post to support the delivery of both local and national tree planting and nature recovery targets.

The new position, funded by the Council and hosted by the National Park Authority’s woodlands team, will run for an initial two years.

It aims to create 50 hectares of new woodland on Exmoor NPA-owned land within the SWT district boundary in the first year, and to work with interested landowners and partners to create a further 75 hectares during the second year.

An estimated 2,500 hectares of new woodland is needed across Exmoor to raise tree cover from 13.5% towards a UK-wide target of at least 17% by 2050 – the amount recommended by the Government’s independent Committee on Climate Change.

The two authorities, who have both declared climate and ecological emergencies, will also work together to plant community woodlands in towns across the district as part of the Council’s commitment to increase the urban tree canopy in line with its Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Action Plan.

The urban woodlands will be twinned with newly planted areas on Exmoor to foster stronger relationships in the community between SWT and the National Park; and provide education on climate change and nature enhancement.

Cllr Dixie Darch, Executive Member for Climate at SWT, said: “None of us can tackle the climate and ecological emergencies on our own, which is why partnership working is essential in delivering our CNCR plan.

“I’m delighted that we are working collaboratively with Exmoor NPA to deliver significant tree cover in a project led by specialists, with gains for both urban and rural residents, as well the wider benefits of nature restoration and carbon sequestration.

“This initiative marks another huge step in our long-term commitment to create a future where people and wildlife thrive together.”

The partnership builds on the success of the National Park Authority’s Bye Wood project.

Planting of the new 12 hectare wood near Winsford began last year, supported by a financial contribution from SWT and generous donations by the public to the National Park’s CareMoor Woods and Trees Appeal towards use of the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly tree planting methods.

It will see just over 13,000 trees planted by the end of next winter, helping capture around 2500 tonnes of carbon in the first 50 years of growth.

A supply of local saplings to help with future tree planting schemes is being grown in the two organisations’ respective nurseries, using locally collected seeds.

Graeme McVittie, Senior Conservation Officer for Woodlands at Exmoor NPA, said: “We are in the midst of a climate emergency, nature crisis and unprecedented demands on natural resources, and the challenge laid before us is clear.

“Expanding tree cover has a significant contribution to make but ensuring we get the right trees in the right places to deliver the outcomes we need requires focus and skill particularly in sensitive landscapes such as Exmoor and surroundings.

“We are therefore delighted to be working closely with SWT on a joint initiative to provide the support to help ensure incentives and enthusiasm are directed effectively.”