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Northern Forest, the UK will plant 50 million trees to create a new green lung

The United Kingdom will create a Northern Forest by planting 50 million trees over 25 years, with the aim of safeguarding biodiversity and tackling climate change.

Great Britain was once covered by temperate deciduous forests characterised by gigantic oaks. But when the industrial revolution brought about a process of urbanisation the once lush area became more and more delimited, so much so that the national forest coverage now accounts to only 11 per cent. As we can’t go back in time, what we can surely do is trying to fix the mistakes made in the past. And this is what the UK government aims to do, as it has announced it will plant 50 million trees to create new “Northern Forest”.

northern forest uk
The creation of a new forest will provide habitat for wildlife, prevent flood risk, and support local economy and communities © Casey Horner/Unsplash

A forest for climate and biodiversity

The forest will stretch in an area running along the 172-kilometre M62 motorway, which connects Liverpool to Hull, passing through Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, and Chester. The project is led by Woodland Trust, an organisation for the conservation of UK’s forests. The organisation aims to provide new habitats for wildlife, reduce floods and tackle climate change. According to Woodland Trust, the new forest will absorb 8 million tonnes of carbon.

Investing in forests

In order to complete the project in 25 years’ time, 5.7 million pounds have been invested so far, with a projected total expense of 500 million. It will be a significant investment that will bring about positive effects. As well as climate and environmental advantages, the forest will contribute to supporting local economy through tourism, employment and an increased property value to 190,000 homes.

The United Kingdom must catch up

The project is expected to begin in March with the reforestation of 680 hectares of land in Smithills, Bolton. The initiative will help the government reach 12 per cent national forest cover, a goal it has set in order to meet the objectives to cutting emissions. However, Woodland Trust claims that only 700 hectares have been reforested in England in 2016, well below the national goal of 5,000 hectares per year.

M62 connecting Liverpool to Hull, UK
Current landscape of the M62 motorway. The UK is currently the country least forested: 10% of England’s territory is forested, against 34.7% in Italy © Bob Smith/grough

A grass-roots forest

The associations Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust have been working for years for this project. “It’s not a government initiative. It’s an idea that’s grown out of the experience and passion of organisations that have been working for the community and the environment for years,” said Austin Brady, head of conservation and external affairs at Woodland Trust.

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