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The Progress of State Afforestation


    THE Geddes Committee recommended the abolition of the Forestry Commission, and the discontinuance of the scheme of State afforestation that was sanctioned by Parliament in 1919. Fortunately these drastic measures were not adopted by the Government. The Treasury, however, has now restricted the Commissioners' operations, by reducing considerably the annual instalment from the forestry fund, which had been fixed at 350,000l. In consequence, the forestry staff has been greatly reduced, all purchase of land for the purpose of afforestation is suspended, and planting operations are greatly curtailed. It is discouraging to be aware of these facts, while reading the second annual report1 of the Forestry Commissioners, which is a record of continuous progress till the end of September 1921.? The report shows unexpected ease in the acquisition of suitable land for planting trees. In order to reduce current expenditure to a minimum, the policy has been pursued of leasing as much and buying as little land as possible. In September 1921 the Commissioners were actually in possession of 68,489 acres of “plantable land,” of which two-thirds had been leased at a rent of about 25. per acre, and one-third purchased at the low price of iZ. 85. per acre. The afforestation of cheap land like this adds materially to the real wealth of the country, as the timber produced will be much more valuable than the poor grass, rushes, bracken, furze, and heather which now cover the ground. Afforestation also provides a ready means of giving work to the unemployed during seasons of bad trade. In November last, 250,000/. was allotted to forestry from the Unemployment Fund; and in spite of the difficulty of organising and in many cases improvising forestry operations with unskilled labour, more than 4000 men were set to work. Landowners and corporations were induced to plant, by small grants which were unencumbered by any condition except that unemployed labour should be utilised. As a result about 11,000 acres were planted on private estates, and preparation was made for the planting of a further 11,500 acres in subsequent years, a notable addition to the woodland area of Great Britain.

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