Sunday 30 January 2011

Pam Warhurst - One to watch

As DEFRA try to force through their proposals to change the way our Forests are managed here in the UK, it is worth keeping an eye on Pam Warhurst, who has just been made Chair of the Forestry Commission. Her background suggests that she is not going to be a keen supporter of Caroline Spelman's plans. Here is Warhurst's statement from DEFRA's news article on Thursday:

Ministers have set out a new vision for forestry in England that will require a fundamental shift in our thinking and how we work. The proposals provide an opportunity to think about forest ownership and sustainable land management in a new way and to engage a wider cross-section of society. The consultation will allow people to have their say and we encourage everyone with an interest to give us their views.

It is not exactly a resounding statement of support is it? But, already you can see that she is having to use politically sensitive language. In the quote above, she says 'provide an opportunity' when she might well be thinking 'force us to' and when she says 'encourage everyone with an interest' she may well have preferred 'urge everyone with an interest'. Linguistics are very important here, I hope she and others in authority start using stronger language soon.

A bit about Pam Warhurst's background. She is also the chair of a Yorkshire based company, Pennie Prospects. It is heavily dependent on public funding and is a strong advocate of public access to the South Pennines and Britain's wild places in general. In her 'message from the chair' Warhurst says this:

What we have [in the South Pennines] is so special but it is under threat. Threat from development that is inappropriate, threat from unsustainable land management practices, threat from climate change and from human apathy, perhaps the greatest threat of all.

She is also a former board member of Natural England, the Government's advisor on the natural environment. It is a very important organisation, it works on behalf of the environment and strives to balance the human-environment relationship for mutual benefit. It answers to no shareholders, economic concerns are secondary. Important jobs are under threat at Natural England, many of its scientists will lose their jobs because of the looming cuts. These are the scientists who have worked in the natural environment for many years and help us understand its current and future states. Their impartial advice is crucial to policy making, it will hollow out at great cost. Losing the forests might lessen the blow to Natural England, but it is a desperate situation, we can't afford to lose either. Pam Warhurst is in a very difficult, but very important position.

No comments: