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Druids Vow to Protect England's Forests

From Philip Carr-Gomm: Yesterday like the half a million other people who signed their petition, I got an email from 38 degrees saying: “We’ve saved our forests! The government has just announced that they’re going to scrap the forest sell-off. Together we convinced the government that our forests should be protected for future generations, not sold to the highest bidder.This is our people-powered victory. Next time someone tries to tell any of us that signing petitions or emailing our MPs doesn’t work, we’ll know exactly what to say: “People power does work. Just look at the Save Our Forests campaign”.

It’s fantastic news and 38 degrees did a great job rallying everyone. But a few hours later I got an email from the Woodland Trust saying: “It doesn’t end here…Whilst welcoming Government intentions to abandon plans for disposal of public forests, the campaign to protect and restore England’s ancient forests must go on.
We welcome the opportunity for a more considered approach to the future of our much loved woodlands but our campaign continues. Whilst we welcome the removal of threats to public access, there is still an acute need for better protection of Ancient Woodland, our equivalent of the rainforests, and restoration of ancient woods planted with conifers.
Even if there are no sales of publicly owned forests, the worst of all worlds would be for there to be no change to the loopholes that have allowed 850 ancient woods to be threatened by built development over the past decade. Ministers have made strong commitments over the past few weeks to increase protection for ancient woods, and we will be holding them to these commitments.
As I write, there is a proposal to water down protection for ancient woodland in the planning system. We need your help to defeat this proposal by 28th February.”

A part of me groans that we still need to keep at it to protect the trees. But before we all start ungirding ourselves let’s just add our voices to the Woodland’s Trusts campaign to close the loopholes and stop the watering-down of planning law in relation to woodland. You’ll find details here and a way – whichever country you live in – to send an automated message to Alan Scott, in the Department for Communities and Local Government, who is dealing with the planning consultation. In needs to be done before Feb 28th. And don’t think it won’t make a difference! Remember what has just been achieved precisely through getting our voices heard!

Maybe we still need Jamie Reid’s picture after all – here shown in a new version (graffitied by us) for Goddess lovers:

UPDATE 17 FEB

From this morning’s Guardian, by Nicholas Watt and John Vidal:

David Cameron has ordered ministers to carry out the government’s biggest U-turn since the general election by abandoning plans to change the ownership of 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodland.
Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, will announce on Friday that a consultation on the sale of forests will be ended after a furious backlash that united Tory supporters with environmentalists and the Socialist Workers party.
“The consultation is going to be terminated,” a government source has said. A No 10 insider added: “It’s a cock-up. We just did not think.”
The prime minister, who told MPs that he was not happy with the government’s handling of the issue, has ordered Spelman to:
• End the consultation on plans to dispose of about half of the 258,000 hectares of woodland in England run by the Forestry Commission by 2020.
• Establish an independent panel with environmentalists to reach consensus on reforms to improve access and biodiversity in forests.
• Drop clauses in the public bodies bill that would allow the government to sell off all of England’s forests. Under current laws only 15% of forests can be sold.
One government source said: “We have heard, we have listened. The consultation will be canned. The consultation will be terminated. It is now a case of coming up with something everyone is happy with.”

Read full article

UPDATE 16 FEB

David Bellamy articulated the feelings of most people when they first heard the news of the government’s proposed disposal of all of England’s public forest: “The green heart of England is not for sale.”

It looks as if the message is getting through. Over half a million have signed the ‘Save Our Forests’ petition organised by grass-roots movement 38 degrees

DRUIDS VOW TO PROTECT ENGLAND’S FORESTS

AND THREATEN TO STRIP THE COALITION PARTIES OF THEIR LOGOS

The government announced today that it would consider greater protection for forest already scheduled for sale. But their announcement does not affect the vast majority of England’s publicly-owned forest whose fate still hangs in the balance, and now Britain’s small but vocal minority of Druids have added their voices to the campaign to stop the government’s plans to dispose of it.

The number of Druids has declined somewhat since the 1930’s when the Druids counted Winston Churchill amongst their members, and their fraternity was over a million strong across the British Empire. Today most Druids are tree-hugging Pagans, although fraternal groups still exist, and there are plenty of Christian Druids – the Archbishop of Canterbury is an Honorary Druid of the Welsh National Eisteddfod, as are members of the Royal family, including the Queen. Estimates put the number of practising Druids today at 50,000 and Philip Carr-Gomm, Chief Druid of the world’s largest teaching organization, The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, today announced plans to help in the campaign to save England’s forests:

‘For every day the government threatens to dispose of our national forests it will lose friends in every corner of society: from people who thought they were Tories and that their party would protect their countryside at one end of the scale, to former road protesters ready to commit their lives to protecting the forests at the other: and, in the middle ground, the usually silent majority of intelligent citizens already showing their support, through petitioning and through their loyal membership of opposing groups such as the Woodland Trust and Friends of the Earth.

Now that the consultation process has begun it is vital that we show the government what we think and feel. The central belief of the Druids – that the land, the forests and trees, and the wildlife they support, are sacred – is not such a strange idea to most people any more. They know that our world is threatened by so much today, and they feel deeply upset that the government has chosen to endanger our public woodland. And it is ironic that is has decided to do this in a year that is designated by the UN as the International Year of Forests.

We agree with the wide range of people and organizations  – including Lord Clark, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Jonathan Porritt and the Woodland Trust – who believe that the government’s proposals are ill-conceived and should be abandoned.

The Conservative Party uses the Oak tree as its symbol. The word Druid means ‘Oak Sage’ and the Druids have traditionally been considered guardians of these trees. In this capacity, we now ask the government to consider its responsibility to the environment and to future generations, and to withdraw its proposals.

We trust that the government will respond to the overwhelming opposition their plans have evoked, and welcome the announcement today that they will reconsider the conditions applying to forestry already approved for sale. We hope that the outcome of the consultation process will be a raised awareness of the need to protect our woodlands and conserve biodiversity, and that positive strategies will emerge.

However, if the result of the consultation period is a continued threat to the forests, we propose a symbolic public stripping of both the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats of their symbols – a tree and a bird – both of which are likely to suffer if our woodlands are compromised.’

An image to replace the Conservative Party logo has already been created by the artist and socialist Druid Jamie Reid. Best known for his Punk Rock images, and work for the Sex Pistols, Reid’s work can now be found in the Tate Gallery. He has been involved in direct action campaigns against the poll tax, and the Criminal Justice Bill. John Marchant writes: ‘Jamie Reid’s unique vision articulates and gives form to some of the key issues of our times. He responds to the ever-increasing attacks on our civil liberties and shared common spaces with passionate anger and savage humour, and shows us ways in which we might re-organise our political and spiritual resources. This is the role of the shaman and Reid’s art acts like a lightning rod, returning us to the earth so that we might share the work of healing… After a ten year installation period with the Strongroom Studios in Shoreditch he is now immersed in discovering and revealing the Aspects of the Eightfold Year.’ John Marchant, Isis 2007. Reid’s site can be found here and his site that focuses on the Eightfold Year here.

The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids will be issuing a CD to raise awareness of this issue, and Jamie Reid has kindly agreed that we can use his artwork for the CD and that – in true anarchic style – we can graffiti it (changing 'God' to 'Goddess')! Thank you Jamie! Here is Jamie’s original. We'll  post our graffiti version soon!

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1. The amount of people who protest, sign petitions and contact their MPs or government ministers does make a difference. In debates MPs refer to the number of letters and calls they have received. Remember we pay their salaries (or rather those of us who pay tax and haven’t relocated off-shore – but that’s another question!). Already the 38 degrees petition has got over 450,000 signatures. Let’s help it get to a million. See http://38degrees.org.uk/page/s/save-our-forests

The Woodland Trust has also started a petition. It's different, so you can sign both. Sign it here: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/campaigning/save-ancient-forests/Pages/default.aspx

Public forest in Ireland may also be under threat. Find out about this and sign a petition here: Woodland League.

2. The government cannot get rid of the Forestry Commission and sell its land under present legislation. But if the bill they are trying to push through now – the Public Bodies Bill – is approved, they will have the legal ability to do so. The bill is currently with the House of Lords and we need to show our disapproval of it. A public march of a million people is being planned in London for 26 March. Watch our for news on this.

3. Respond to the government’s consultation paper: You can find it here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/forests/index.htm. You can submit your responses online or by mail. To respond effectively you need to be informed about the issue. Whatever you do, don’t rush into responding to the consultation. Learn more about it first. A good place to start: http://saveourwoods.co.uk