The past few weeks have seen the charity The Woodland Trust finally break cover and come out in opposition to Hs2. This is due to the fact they’re very much a single-issue campaign who really can’t see the woods for the trees. Forget the wider issues of climate change, they’re all about woodland, and Hs2 will cut though some ancient woodland which simply can’t be avoided except at huge cost. For the WT, cost doesn’t come into it. In their view ancient woodland should be protected at any cost. But then, when it’s not your money you’re spending, that’s easy to say!
When I’ve challenged the WT on their opposition to HS2 they’ve come over all pained and said that they don’t object to HS2 ‘in principle’ – only in practise! Frankly, this hypocritical stance doesn’t fool anyone. They want to see HS2 delayed, or cancelled, as their latest campaign makes clear. According to them “Any transport system that destroys irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland can never be called ‘green'”.
Notice the use of the word “destroys”? There’s a lot of emotive hyperbole in their writing about HS2. They also describe it as “smashing” through ancient woodland. If you believed their rhetoric you could be forgiven for thinking HS2 was more like Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes sweeping across the country rather than engineering companies that are building something and have to adhere to strict environmental standards that are legally enforceable.
There’s also another problem. Exactly how much is HS2 allegedly “destroying”, and how? You won’t get any firm answers from the WT, they’re extremely coy when it comes to detail other then headline figures, as this tweet demonstrates.
What exactly does “facing damage” mean when it’s at home? It’s meaningless. Emotive, but meaningless. Look at this statement from their latest petition against HS2.
“It’s a terrible situation – we could lose many of our greatest national assets for no reason at all”
“Many”? really? Let’s try and get some perspective here and I’m using the Woodland Trusts own figures to supply it.
The WT estimate that there’s 450,000 hectares of ancient woodland across the UK.
That’s 450,000 hectares out of a grand total of 3.19 million hectares of woodland across the UK. OK, so how much ancient woodland is HS2 going to affect? The Woodland Trust’s own figure is 40.2 hectares but they don’t define what ‘affected’ is. We don’t know what percentage of that is cut down, or what HS2 might come near and supposedly “damage” in passing. It’s all very nebulous and the WT refuse to come clean over what any of this actually means in practise. So, here’s the numbers crunched. If there’s 450,000ha of ancient woodland and only 40.2ha is affected by HS2, that’s just 0.008%. Now, what was that the WT said, oh yes “lose many of our greatest national assets” 0.008% is “many”? Someone’s not being honest with people here…
Talking of not being honest, the Woodland Trust list noise and dust as part of the “damage” HS2 will cause to ancient woodland. Yet one of their own fact sheets on HS2 talks about woodland making good noise and dust barriers! How’s that for hypocrisy. Here’s a link to their information sheet. Here’s part of what it says.
Another awkward question the Trust refuse to answer is how can they be so precise with their figures, like the 40.2ha claim when they admit themselves that they don’t actually know the size of the areas of woodland on Hs2 Phase 2b that will be affected? This is taken from their website.
Today, the Woodland Trust have been tweeting out this latest exaggeration. They’re no longer claiming 40.2ha of Woodland’s affected by HS2, they’re now saying it’s 57.8ha. So where’s the evidence for this new claim? There’s none. Nothing at all. As I’ve already shown, it’s impossible for them to substantiate such a claim – even their own website admits that – because no-one knows what will happen on phase 2b until the plans are finalised and the Petitioning process is completed. They’re deliberately misleading people.
There’s also one very large elephant in the room that the WT point-blank refuse to see. If we’re serious about cutting carbon emissions from transport the only way we can do that is by vastly increasing our rail capacity to cope with the modal shift needed to get lorries and cars off our roads. That means building HS2 (which the WT oppose). If we don’t do that, it won’t just be ancient woodland affected by climate change, it will be all 3.19 million hectares of UK woodland. The WT really can’t see the woods for the trees. The sad truth is that – like many single-issue campaigns – the WT’s blinkered approach is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Added to which the Green Party, of all people, are opposed. But that’s possibly more down to their anti-growth agenda?
Paul Bigland said:
The greens are opposed because of the daft way they make policy. They were sold a pup by Prof Whitelegg at conference where policy is decided by a show of hands. The Greens don’t have the intellectual wherewithal to see what they’ve done.
I lost faith with the WT when they pretended to be Chiltern Trains with a questionnaire a few years ago. They oppose all rail and are IMHO just another shill for the oil companies.
Ken Sherwood said:
Well said, putting these claims into perspective. I assume that HS2 will work or offer to work with such groups to limit the “affected areas”, and no doubt be funding some future WT operations as part of a mitigation plan
Paul Bigland said:
Indeed. What really annoys me about the WT is their use of emotive language when they refuse to define the exact impact HS2 will have on some of these woods. They love to say ‘smashing through’ or ‘destroying’, but never reply when challenged to explain what exactly the specific effects HS2 has.
Matt Larsen-Daw said:
It must have been frustrating not to find that information you say Woodland Trust has been ‘nebulous’ about. The website is indeed not perfect but it is all there. This selection of more detailed documents collated to allow informed local resistance has many of the details you bemoan they aren’t providing. The bottom line is that ancient woodland is in short supply and irreplaceable, but it is fragmented already and increasing that fragmentation reduces the habitat and ecological value more than just the amount of land cleared. Furthermore the ‘strict environmental standards that are legally enforceable’ have been shown to be categorically insufficient. Compensation planting is box ticking that leads to unmanaged young woods in often unsuitable places dying before they establish, with no legal obligation to help them after initial planting. Hope that’s helpful! https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/our-campaigns/hs2-rail-link/community-resources/
Paul Bigland said:
I” go further. Not just ‘nebulous’ but actively dishonest. The further information confirms that the “destruction” of AW the Trust talks of includes the fact that some AW ‘might’ just suffer from dust from construction traffic. Oh, please! Meanwhile, the Trust as it’s supporters like yourself keep to the totalitarian line that Ancient Woodland should be absolutely sacrosanct and not a single tree should be touched. It’s so unrealistic it’s actually ridiculous – especially when you consider such a fundamentalist attitude is actually preventing us tacking climate change and providing the massive increase in rail capacity that’s needed to make the modal shift from road to rail. You’re not protecting ancient woodland, you’re putting ALL 3.19m ha of UK woodland (and more) at risk.
It’s interesting to note that HS2 affects less ancient woodland than HS1, which was a total of 42 hectares. However, in that case 43.7 hectares was translocated / recreated.
See download in the third post at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ancient_woodland_translocation_m_2
Paul Bigland said:
Indeed! Funny how the Woodland Trust never mention that and insist that HS2 is the ‘biggest’ cause of the loss of ancient woodland. T
The M40 wasn’t innocent either https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hRTcVwgSC6cC&pg=PA72&lpg=PA72&dq=ancient+woodland+M40&source=bl#v=onepage&q=ancient%20woodland%20M40&f=false
I have sent an email to BBC Radio4 More or Less asking them to look at the claims of the Woodland Trust. Unfortunately this week sees the last episode of the current series. But I would appreciate their forensic approach to the figures.
Anthony Woodward said:
I would ask the Woodland Trust to confirm the amount of ancient woodland which has remained irretrievably destroyed following the building of HS1 and where the stated area of affected woodland was actually greater than that along the HS2 Phase1a & 1b route sections. The Trust is shooting from the hip and with meaningless intent, which is a shame, as more woodland is lost to disease and agricultural chemicals than will ever be the result of an expertly conceived and sound environmentally managed project which actually champions the Green Agenda rather than destroying it.