Well- known TV presenter and environmentalist Chris Packham has continually made the statement that HS2 is causing the biggest deforestation programme since World War 1. Here’s one of his tweets from today, making exactly that claim.
There’s only one problem with it, which is this…
I’ve been doing something Packham clearly hasn’t bothered to do and researched the evidence for his claim. I started off with this website from the Conservation Volunteers which contains a history of British woodland. They have a handy section on the 20th Century, which reveals this:
“The strategic danger of this situation became obvious in the First World War (1914-1918), when enemy action prevented imports getting through. Over the four years, about 180,000 hectares (450,000 acres) were felled to meet the demands“.
180,000 hectares eh? Any more offers? Well, actually – yes. This is from the Countryfile website.
“There were 182 government-run sawmills by the end of 1917, supplemented by a further 40 mills run by groups such as the Canadian Forestry Corps and Women’s Forestry Corps. By 1918, 182,000 hectares of woodland had been felled – an area larger than modern-day Greater London”. Let’s split the difference and say 181,000 hectares shall we? Oh, and that’s without The conservation volunteers pointing out that more woodland was felled in WW 2 than WW1.
“By the time of the Second World War (1939-1945), the Commission forests were still too young to provide much timber, and about 212,000 hectares (524,000 acres) of private woodland were felled to meet the demand“.
Then how much woodland is going to be felled (note, felled, not just affected) by HS2? Because, if Packham’s claim is right, it’s got to be way over 180,000 ha, or even 212,000ha. Now, 212,000 hectares is 210 square kilometres. What do HS2 say’s is affected in this document? Note, this is not just felled, but indirectly affected too. Oh…
Up to 3.8km in total will be affected by HS2. That’s just 380 hectares! Oh, and that’s without talking into account the fact HS2 will be planting MORE woodland than they affect, in fact, they’ll be planting more than double the amount, 136% more in fact. Some ‘deforestation’!
WW1 = 181,000 Ha felled
WW2 = 212,000 Ha felled
HS2 = 380 Ha (includes woodland affected but not felled).
Plus, if we take up Packham on his claim about ancient woodlands, we can see the numbers are even smaller, as this blog using the (Woodland Trusts own figures) exposed.
Oh, there’ also this handy little graphic from @greensforhs2 which adds more context. Did you know far more woodland’s been felled in Scotland to make way for windfarms?
Someone pass Packham a fire extinguisher as his pants are clearly ablaze!
Some interesting information and figures there, ones that put the myths spread by the Anti’s to the sword. And one has consider that lost in the time from the start of the Industrial Revolution to today on top of that lost in the two World Wars.
Paul Bigland said:
Indeed, Phil. I’d love to know how much woodland was lost during the motorway building programme, I suspect there’s a lot of projects that would surpass HS2 very easily…
In terms of ancient woodland at 30ha it’s much smaller than is reported here:
Where 80ha was being reported as being lost for a quarry
If we’re criticising someone’s else’s numbers let’s make sure we get ours right. The report mentioned 80 acres, which is about 32 hectares.
Anyway, the point still stands. HS2 is removing about the same amount of Ancient Woodland as a single quarry.
Paul Bigland said:
Tanks for that Graham. Useful perspective!
Ken Sherwood said:
Another excellent spearing of the rhetoric set against this project. Is Packham as set against new housing and roads and the effect of those on the “natural environment”? I often wonder at the carbon footprint of those who preach to us about our choices. I assume that Mr P drives and train travels about the country to make his programmes and personal appearances. Surely a solution that allows us all to travel with the least impact overall would deserve some recognition from him, possibly even encourage him to participate to deliver such a project with the best environmental standards