Once again, the Welsh Assembly prove they care little for local Welsh communities.
In 2021, the Welsh government formally adopted afforestation targets with the aim of reaching its goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It aims to plant 43,000 hectares of mixed woodland in Wales by 2030 to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere — rising to 180,000 hectares by 2050.
Surely this sounds good for the planet as most of us are aware that many huge corporations have destroyed millions of trees in many countries, namely the Amazon, all for obscene profits?
However locals in Cwrt-y-cadno village, Carmarthenshire, once an important interchange for local cattle drivers, are very concerned, and a local retired GP is leading a campaign to halt a company, Foresight Sustainable Forestry Company, trying to develop local farmland with a view to profit, with financial backing by the Welsh Assembly, who are encouraging investment into tree planting.
He says he’s very worried about these companies buying land in this area with the “incentive to change the use of the land for short-term profit. They are not taking into account the negative impacts that their policy and their plans have on the local environment.”
The GP added: “Not only would Welsh language, culture, heritage and community disappear if this project was replicated elsewhere, but this poses an existential threat to upland sheep farming communities throughout Wales.
In July 2021, Foresight applied for planning permission to plant on 60 hectares of land but has since scaled this back to 42.5 hectares following a backlash from residents who argue “that the introduction of a non-native species could damage local habitats, food production and their way of life”.
The company has plans for almost three quarters of the trees to be conifers, which are an outside species. Critics feel this threatens biodiversity and have demanded they plant solely native broadleaves
A coalition of organisations are opposing this project includes the charities The Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru (INCC), Cambrian Mountains Society, the Countryside Alliance Wales, a political campaign group and Farmers’ Union of Wales.
Rob Parry, chief executive of INCC, recognises that “tree planting is important” but he feels that many of the sites proposed “are incredibly important habitats themselves and we risk losing one habitat for another”.
Farmers too are very concerned that they could find themselves priced out of good quality land as they struggle to compete with wealthy companies – a debate has risen as high as parliament. In spring, the Welsh affairs committee published a report on the risks posed to family farms.
The Welsh government defended its efforts to tackle climate change: “We need to plant 86mn trees by the end of this decade if we are to meet our net zero target by 2050. Beyond addressing the climate and nature emergencies . . . tree planting offers a considerable opportunity to the rural economy.
We will only fund woodland projects that are able to demonstrate they meet the high standards required by our schemes,” it added.
Forestry is now big business due to “carbon offset” and demand for suitable land from investors is “sky high”.
Companies are offering farmers “an attractive exit” by paying a “premium above agricultural value” at a difficult time for the sector.
Another sneaky way of getting rid of agricultural land? Who knows?