It has been great to see trees so high on the political agenda during the 2019 election campaign. As the Conservative government looks to fulfil their manifesto pledge of planting 30 million trees a year, or 2.5 million per month between 2020 and 2025, the Association will be doing its best to ensure that the expertise of the arboriculture industry is utilised and that arboricultural best practice is implemented. We look forward to seeing more detail on precisely how these numbers will be fulfilled.
Plenty of new trees are of course most welcome, but the Association would urge politicians and the general public to remember some important facts. Most of the discussion about tree planting so far has been about woodland creation, but urban trees – those closest to where most people live and work – are equally as important. If urban trees are to be established successfully then qualified, experienced and accredited arboricultural professionals must play a key role. Trees must be responsibly selected, located, sourced, planted and maintained; the ‘planting’ side of things is just one element.
A focus on tree numbers should not detract from other questions: How big will these trees be? Where will they be planted? Where will they come from? Will biosecurity be properly considered? And, crucially, how will they be maintained in the future? it must be remembered that after ten years of declining budgets and support for Local Authorities the resources are hardly in place to manage what we already have. It is essential that existing urban trees are maintained, that the public sector tree officers who manage them are properly resourced and supported, and that arboriculture is recognised as a specialised, professional and valuable industry.
This moment in time represents an important opportunity to raise the public profile of arboriculture, and the Association will be offering its support to Government to assist with the technical knowledge required to ensure that the manifesto promises are delivered. There is little point in planting millions of trees if we are unable, or unwilling, as a country to properly measure, protect and maintain our existing trees and woodlands. However, there is hope. If the Government is prepared to work with our industry, recognise it as a specialist discipline and listen to the experts then together we can ensure that UK arboriculture remains a world-leading sector. The Association is ready to help.