Information for G00391
Changing Ownership and Management of State Forest Plantations. United Kingdom Draft 2003
Paper drafted following the International Conference of the same title Cape Town, South Africa, 6-8 November 2002. Privatisation of state-owned plantations is likely to be a publicly contentious policy in the UK. Numerous interests can be affected: local people using the plantation, environmental NGOs, the forest-based industry worried about future contracts for supply; and the state forestry service (Forestry Commission) will be reluctant to accept a reduced or changed role. The government should be clear about what it seeks to achieve, and what it needs to avoid. Consultation with those affected can help reduce adverse impacts (and opposition). The private sector will usually have greater flexibility, better access to finance, fewer restrictions, more drive, clearer objectives - although these may conflict with public interests such as continued use by local people and protection of wildlife. There are ways of reducing adverse impacts - through selection of plantations, specific incentive schemes and the regulations - but at a cost. The broad conclusion of the review and subsequent public discussion is that purely commercial plantations can be managed at least as well, and probably more efficiently, by the private sector; but that plantations with important public interest aspects are safer at present with the state forest service. Measures to ensure that these public interests would be safeguarded by the private sector are quite well-established; but getting the private sector to develop plantations into diverse forests supplying increased social and environmental services is much more difficult. Until this is shown to be feasible, it seems unlikely that wholesale privatisation of all the state-owned plantations will be an option in the UK. Nonetheless, there are opportunities short of total privatisation to use the private sector, which can be beneficial.