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Restoring Community Forests Across England

by Gabrielle Clawson October 12, 2023 4 min read

Restoring Community Forests Across England
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Bringing Communities Together, One Tree at a Time

Spending time in nature provides a range of powerful physical and mental health benefits. These include reduced stress, improved outlook, faster convalescence, improved test scores in children, increased cognition, and more.  Because of this, healthy community forests are crucial to the well-being of people.

In England, our partner, The Community Forest Trust, is working with England’s Community Forests to ensure that community forests are around for years to come by planting trees. Green and recreational spaces are important to community health and resilience, and this project focuses on protecting and enhancing these spaces. Not only are green spaces important for local communities, they also help reduce the impact of climate change, improve air and water quality, and lower temperatures by providing shade. 

By planting trees, this initiative aims to create habitat for wildlife while improving access to green spaces and empowering community members to get involved and make an impact in their forests!

Community Engagement and Education

This planting focused on bringing people and trees together to foster healthy and resilient spaces for forests and communities to live side by side. 

During this phase of the project, 11,790 community members were empowered to make an impact by planting 1,500,000 trees. With each tree planted, they were able to make a lasting difference for their own families, friends, and neighbors.

Education also played a crucial role during this project. Not only were local communities able to fully understand how important trees are to everyday life, but students were able to learn more about nature and connect with it in a reciprocal way. 

This project connected with schools and programs such as Forest School and Woodland Outreach to help school children really understand the connectivity between us and nature. Trees often exist in the background of our lives, and we don’t really think twice about their  impact. By getting students involved in this project, they were able to truly grasp the essential ecosystem functions that trees perform.

Environmental Benefits

Not only does this project empower local communities and schools to get involved, but it also makes a powerful impact on ecosystems across England. 

Every tree species planted has a specific purpose. Because the aim is to create and enhance more green spaces and increase public access to woodland, many of these trees were planted to provide shade and reduce the heat island effect across these forests. From picnics to hikes, each and every tree planted in this project will help keep people cool, lower surrounding temperatures, and improve local water and air quality.

While community was certainly top of mind with this planting initiative, wildlife and biodiversity were also positively impacted. Throughout the duration of this project, 370 sites were dedicated to expanding critical woodland ecological networks. These networks help to promote biodiversity while also providing native species a place to call home. 

Trees also act as natural flood management, and this project utilized the tree plantings to do just that, improving climate resilience and protecting important soil and water resources. 

The Importance of Community Forests in England

Most of England’s Community Forests are scattered across large cities and towns. These forests are home to many important species and help positively impact local communities in important ways. A Community Forest program was born in 1990 to help preserve these vital lands. Since then, this program has morphed into the vital restoration project that Community Forest Trust, together with England’s Community Forests, has dedicated themselves to for years. 

With the climate crisis growing in intensity, these community forests are the local towns’ and cities' best defense against aggressive change from the environment. They are essential to help lower temperatures and clean the air and water. These forests also help to promote biodiversity and enhance climate change resilience. 

By planting trees across these forests and helping to preserve and restore England’s countryside, this project is working to bring woodlands back to life for both people and wildlife. These beautiful forests provide a number of recreation, leisure, and cultural opportunities while also promoting and enhancing the natural biodiversity of these areas. 

Impacting Health and Wellness

In many places across England, access to woodland areas is hard to come by. 

This project’s main focus was on planting trees in areas where access to woodland and green spaces were few and far between. The trees planted throughout the project not only impact the environment but also help improve people’s health and wellness. 

One way they improve health is by combating dangerously high temperatures. Trees help to mitigate what is known as the heat island effect. In urban and suburban areas, the heat island effect causes increased temperatures and higher levels of pollution. Often, we see less trees in areas where marginalized people live, making this effect worsen over time. A combination of pollution and rising temperatures have long-term  consequences for people's physical and mental health. 

By planting trees in areas that are in the most need, this project focuses on closing the tree gap, allowing people across the country to enjoy the positive impact that trees provide. 

There are so many different ways that trees can make a difference around the world. You can get involved and make an impact by donating to plant trees where they’re needed most!

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Gabrielle Clawson
Gabrielle Clawson

Gabrielle helps with fundraising and marketing, working with peer-to-peer fundraising as well as business fundraising. With experience in both women's rights and climate change organizations, she has a strong passion for non-profits and is excited to make an impact in the world through environmental change!