Neil Hamilton, MS for Mid & West Wales and Leader of UKIP Wales, has welcomed news that seven areas in his Region have been chosen as sites for a National Forest.
Mr Hamilton, a member of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs committee, said he was delighted the locations had been earmarked as ‘exemplar sites’ for what will be a connected network of forest spanning the length of Wales.
“I am pleased to see forests in my Region, including three from Powys, make up half the sites chosen for this exciting venture.
“Mid and West Wales is home to some beautiful woodland which attract thousands of visitors every year. These tranquil areas are particularly important at the moment as we all continue to struggle to come to terms with the devastating effect of Covid–19.
“Many more people, both locals and tourists, are getting out and about enjoying the countryside. It is vital we protect and nurture our precious national woodlands for the future. This is an ambitious project but I welcome any moves to highlight, promote and preserve these vital areas.”
Announced in the spring, the National Forest will be a long-term project matching the scale and ambition of the Wales Coast Path, linking together a network of woodlands across Wales.
As well as improving existing woodlands to meet the National Forest standard, plans will also see more trees planted by Welsh Government in collaboration with partners such as communities, farmers, foresters and public bodies.
Along with providing spaces for leisure and nature, new managed woodlands created for the National Forest will also help to capture and store carbon – and the timber will provide a sustainable resource for construction.
The 14 new sites, which include seven from Mid & West Wales, are part of the Welsh Government estate and managed and maintained by Natural Resources Wales.
They are: Dyfnant Forest, Hafren Forest and Radnor Forest, Powys; Dyfi Forest, Gwynedd; Bwlch Nant yr Arian and Coed Y Bont, Ceredigion and Brechfa Forest, Carmarthenshire.
Next year, Welsh Government will also work alongside partners to discuss the features and benefits which new and existing woodland could provide before they can form part of the National Forest – with good existing infrastructure and connectivity including bridleways, pathways and access.
The National Forest would also create connected woodlands across the length and breadth of Wales.
Welsh nature and wildlife broadcaster Iolo Williams has also recorded a short video to mark the announcement for the Natural Forest, showing his support.
He said: “Through the National Forest we can restore, enhance and create woodlands and habitats in a connected way across the length and breadth of Wales, with the right species of tree planted in the right place.
“It will also inspire well-being through creating a love for the outdoors in future generations, and establish strong, sustainable landscapes and habitats, firmly rooted to protect our country in a number of ways from the impact of the climate emergency.
“And this will be our National Forest – I would encourage all those with an interest to get involved.”