‘Tree planting targets could come at the cost of culture’

There are worries that the heavy push to stop climate change could impact local wildlife and heritage

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Welsh culture and landscapes could be ruined by environmental targets to plant trees.

That’s according to charity the Snowdonia Society, which claims that investment from large scale companies to build farms throughout the country could have detrimental impacts on heritage, language and culture.

Wales has committed to having 86 million trees planted by the end of this decade to mitigate climate change and meet its 2050 net zero target.

The Welsh government launched a Woodland Investment Grant Scheme, providing up to £250,000 for projects to expand existing woodlands or cultivate new ones.

Global woodland developers have reportedly been in consistent contact with the Snowdonia National Park Authority regarding possible investments and expansion, however, the Snowdonia Society warn that the financial and environmental lure should not come before a respect for heritage and wildlife.

Director John Harold said: “We need a conversation about where we want trees and where we can accommodate them.”

He explained that a key issue Wales has faced in the past has been the planting of trees without surveying the chosen areas.

“We’ve been here before, in the ‘70s and ‘80s when great dark blankets of plantation forestry were dropped on the landscape at random and we’ve been dealing with the consequences ever since. It impacts communities, landscape and wildlife.”

Welsh Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, stressed: “The Welsh government will only fund woodland projects that are able to demonstrate they meet the high standards required by our schemes.”

Rhys Owen, Head of Conservation, Woodland and Agriculture at the Snowdonia National Park Authority commented: “The Snowdonia National Park Authority shares the Snowdonia Society’s concerns regarding the effect of large-scale tree plantation schemes on the wildlife and culture of our designated landscapes.

“As well as the visual impacts of such schemes on our landscape, a change in land use on such a scale would inevitably affect our heritage and culture.

“Rural, agricultural communities would be negatively affected and in turn we would witness a decline in terms of language, population and way of life within those communities.

“Any tree planting schemes that are established to address our nation’s carbon challenges must be ethical, with the best interest of Wales at its heart.”