Two thousand hectares of new woodland will be created through the planting of four million trees as part of a £30m government investment in the next financial year, Defra has announced.
It is a welcome injection of cash for charities, local authorities and businesses which own land as the funding will be used to help them to continue planting schemes.
Another 200,000 hectares of existing woodland will also be protected or improved as part of the investment.
Dan Rogerson, Minister for Forestry, said: “Forests are a cherished national resource, which provide precious habitats for wildlife and natural spaces for generations to enjoy. Planting four million trees over the coming year will help us to extend woodland cover which will benefit wildlife, improve the environment and help grow the economy.
“New forests hold economic, as well as environmental and social benefits, enabling the forestry businesses to create more jobs and play an increasing role in the nation’s economic recovery.”
Woodland planting will create jobs and long-term growth opportunities for forestry companies, he said.
Some £6m of the funding is to be spent on new planting in 2014/15 and the other £24m on woodland management.
Many of the trees planted this year will grow for up to 60 years before being sustainably felled for timber.
The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) is one charity working in the region which relies on donations from individuals, businesses, government agencies and other organisations to continue its work, including tree planting.
Since the Trust was originally set up in 1996, its officers and volunteers have planted more than one million trees in the Dales and Nidderdale.
It manages the Dales Woodland Restoration Programme, an initiative delivered and funded by a partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Forestry Commission.
The programme sees the agencies work closely together to create new areas of woodland and with landowners to manage existing woodlands across the region.
Chris Lodge, YDMT’s woodland development officer, said: “The Government’s investment plans are very welcome, particularly given the reduction in the level of funding available over recent years for woodland creation and management.
“This Government investment could provide an opportunity to increase the area of woodland cover in the Dales which is currently only 4.5 per cent compared to the UK average of 11.6 per cent.”
The value of woodland coverage should not be underestimated he said.
“Woodlands provide vital natural habitats to support a huge variety of wildlife, as well as providing tranquil places for people to enjoy recreational activities, not to mention the environmental benefits that trees and woodlands provide, such as absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing water run-off from the surrounding areas to help alleviate the risk of flooding.”
The woodland area across the UK is around 3.1m hectares, according to the latest figures produced by the Forestry Commission.
There are a plethora of tree planting schemes across the country and during 2012/13, project staff with the help of volunteers created some 11,000 hectares of new woodland.
The Tree Council, the UK’s leading charity for trees, holds a National Tree Week at the end of November each year to raise awareness and appreciation of woodlands, as well as encouraging planting.