Since 2017, the Woodland Trust has led 70 United Kingdom organizations in the call for a Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
The Charter of the Forest was first signed on 6 November 1217 as a sister charter to the Magna Carta from which it had evolved. Some minor changes were made to it, before it was reissued in 1225. It was then joined with Magna Carta in the Confirmation of Charters in 1297. A Charter of the Forest was signed by Henry III to set down rights for people to access the sustainable benefits of the woods, trees and grazing lands of the Royal Forests in England. It provides a window to a period of history when trees and woods were integral to everyday life for firewood, building material and food.
In October 2010, the government introduced the Public Bodies Bill to the House of Lords, which would have enabled the Secretary of State to sell or lease public forests in England. The Woodland Trust believed that the public outcry that stopped those plans revealed the connection people feel to the woods and trees of the UK.
The Independent Panel on Forestry wrote in its 2011 Report:
A Charter should be created for the English Public Forest Estate, to be renewed every ten years. The Charter should specify the public benefit mission and statutory duties.
The call to create a Charter for Trees, Woods and People was first made in January 2016. The Charter for Trees, Woods and People was launched on 6 November 2017 on the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest. The Tree Charter address different issues to the historic charter because society and priorities have changed so much. However, there has been no comparable statement of rights and responsibilities in the intervening 800 years. The Tree Charter aims to bring this discussion of the importance of woods and trees to people back to the forefront of public consciousness.
The charter aims to join the dots between all the different areas of society in which trees give benefits so that it can recognize and protect the true value of trees to society. Organizations involved are from a variety of industries. This includes commercial forestry, health, wildlife conservation and many more.
To create this Tree Charter, thousands of tree ‘stories’ were collected from people across the UK about what trees and woods mean to them. A tree story is any expression of what trees and woods mean to people. They can be a sentence or longer phrase, a photo, audio clip or video. The tree stories were collected until the end of February 2017.
These tree stories collected from the UK public, along with specific consultations with forestry and sector professionals, will form the basis for the partner organizations to write the content of the final Tree Charter. The new Tree Charter document will not be legally binding, but more a set of guiding principles, to which politicians, organizations, community groups and individuals can be held to account.
The 10 Tree Charter Principles were announced on 27 March 2017. From this moment onwards, the public is being asked to sign to show support for the Tree Charter.
The Tree Charter will be a document which can be used to hold politicians, community groups and organizations to account, backed up by the body of evidence of over 60,000 public stories. It will be the basis each year of a joint statement from the partner organizations, which will demonstrate whether or not the aims of the Charter have been achieved.
Partner organizations involved in creating the Tree Charter:
Owlapps.net - since 2012 - Les chouettes applications du hibou