News from the Natural World: Treebeard & Ents unhappy with Forestry Commissions plans to privatise all forests in the UK.
Treebeard & Ents are a race of beings in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy world Middle-earth who closely resemble trees. They are similar to the talking trees in folklore around the world. Their name is derived from the Old English word for giant. Treebeard is a tree-giant and leader of the Ents. He is said by Gandalf to be “the oldest living thing that still walks beneath the Sun upon this Middle-earth.” After the fall of Sauron, Treebeard and the rest of the Ents decided to resettle in the Lake District. They decided to make their home in the ancient rainforests of Borrowdale. Borrowdale has the largest area of native broadleaf woodland of any of the Lake District valleys. It was a perfect home. But something terrible awoke Treebeard and the Ents from a centuries-long slumber.
Last week Treebeard awoke to discover that his beautiful woodland was being destroyed. Ancient trees which had stood for centuries were being torn down because they threatened human pathways. As Treebeard wandered further he came across a site that made his eyes well up with sap. The hillsides of the Lake District had once been covered in close leaf canopy but now all that remained was a barren wilderness strewn with dry stone walls and four legged tree destroying clouds (sheep). In addition, he could see a harrowing monoculture of pine trees, stretched out in uniform rows as far as the eye could see. These manufactured gardens had stripped the woodland of all biodiversity and resembled no forest in Treebeards eyes. The last time he had witnessed such destruction it had been at the dread hands of the evil wizard Saruman. Was another more terrifying wizard to blame this time?
Treebeard & Ents unhappy with Forestry Commission
It was no wizard. It was something called the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission was set up in 1919 with good intentions to expand Britain’s forests and woodland after depletion during the First World War. To do this, the commission bought large amounts of former agricultural land, eventually becoming the largest landowner in Britain. But like all human constructs, the Forestry Commission became corrupt and lost sight of its true aim over time. On the outside, he championed the protection of forests for the public but behind closed doors, it secretly plotted the privatisation of forests in the UK.
For you see the Forestry Commission set up a shadow company called Forest Holidays. Who was the leader of this company? None other than Saruman’s arch familiar Grima Worm-tongue. Under a bizarre 2012 “framework agreement”, the company is given the right to develop as many as 30 sites across the forestry estate at any one time, with no eventual limit. Many of these sights are luxury holiday chalets. It pays the commission a rent per chalet of an average £3,000 a year, and rents out the chalets for up to £4,000 a week, an eye-popping margin. Some of the leases are for a phenomenal 125 years. Under the continued leadership of Grima Worm-tongue it already ranks fourth in Britain among private companies for profits growth.
Forestry Commissions plan to privatise all forests in the UK
But it didn’t stop there. A company called Phoenix Equity acquired 42% of Forest Holidays for £110m. But what justified such a high price. Grima Worm-tongues second in command Bruce McKendrick said that the high price was justified on the basis that “the Forestry Commission has a million hectares of forest, so we’ve plenty to keep us going for many years to come. We’ve hit a goldmine!”
Treebeard was utterly distraught. The beautiful forests of the UK were being privatised. Yet the country had less woodland per acre than anywhere in Europe. The Forestry Commission was clearly a vile despoiler of Britain’s uplands, with its silent rows of conifers, monocultures and acid rivers.
Whilst some Ents argued that it was trying to be better and had increased its commitment to biodiversity and public recreation. But Treebeard was adamant that the Forest Holidays deal called into question the aims of the Forestry Commission. Under Grima’s guidance it was selling off a public land bank worth £262m, yet barely a single penny was coming to the taxpayer. It was a pure banana republic or as Treebeard called it a “Wizards Republic”. Treebeard knew that the Forestry Commission was truly a force for evil when he saw how Forest Holidays described its chalets. Forest Holidays describes its chalets, as they scatter through Britain’s woodlands, as “sheer decadence”. That says it all really, thought Treebeard.
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