aerial view of forest with hills on the horizon

Five reasons why it’s good to cut down trees

We love trees. We care for over 1,500 woods and forests and grow millions of trees each year. So why do we cut some down?

We can’t survive without trees and we need to plant more. So it feels like felling trees should always be bad. But in fact, when done responsibly, it is actually good for the health of forests. Whether it’s for harvesting timber, protecting people or creating new habitats, read on to discover five reasons why it’s good to cut down trees.

timber stack close up to show tree rings of a trunk

1. For sustainable timber

We all use things made from wood every day. From the books we read and paper we write and draw on, to the furniture we sit, eat and sleep on. When forests are looked after properly, they can provide a renewable source of wood forever. 

In England, the nation’s forests are independently certified, meeting both national and international standards of sustainable forestry. We manage our forests to balance the benefits they offer, providing habitats for wildlife to thrive and spaces for people to enjoy. By providing homegrown timber to the nation, we can also reduce demand on the resources of other countries where forests may not be managed responsibly. 

Growing and using sustainable wood also helps tackle the climate crisis. For a sustainable future we need to use more wood to replace fossil fuel intensive products, like plastic, and to lock up carbon from the atmosphere. When you shop for wood and paper products, always look for the FSC® or PEFC logos. This means the wood comes from well-managed forests, like ours.

Millions of people visit the nation’s forests every year to relax, to play or to exercise. We look after something like 133 million trees, and any one of them can be a potential danger to our staff or people enjoying the outdoors. 

Storm damage or disease can cause a tree to become brittle, lose branches or fall down entirely. So to protect everyone’s safety, we remove trees that are a risk. This is especially important if they’re near to places like a play area or walking trail. 

The wood isn’t wasted, and can often be left in the forest as deadwood to provide vital habitat for a range of creatures. 

Family laughing together on an easy access trail

2. To keep us safe

a clear fell area with logs, branches and brambles laden across the ground. 5 trees remain standing within the sparse landscape.

3. To control pests and diseases

We care for trees throughout their life and work hard to keep them healthy. But just like us, sometimes trees get ill. The spread of pests and diseases can cause devasting impacts to our woodlands and kill huge numbers of trees. 

Working with colleagues in Forestry Commission, we monitor trees to spot early signs of disease or damage. Any problems we do spot are treated to control their spread and protect other trees.

Sometimes this means we have to remove some affected trees to protect the others and keep them healthy. To protect the future of our forests we sometimes need to take drastic action. 

When we plant a forest to produce timber, we often place trees close together so that they grow tall and straight with fewer branches. This produces stronger timber with fewer knots in the wood. Some trees will not grow as well as others, so we fell the smaller trees to create space and light for the others to grow better. This is called thinning. 

The wood from the smaller trees that are thinned is used for things like fence posts, pallets, wood chips and fuel. The remaining trees will carry on growing and produce a good quality timber crop. 

Thinning also lets more light in to the forest floor, which increases the diversity of plants in our woodlands and encourages more wildlife.

Conifer forest with looking up at the canopy with thinned timber and branches on forest floor

4. To thin out the forest

Nightjar sitting on a nest on the ground

5. To create other habitats

The nation’s forests are a patchwork of different habitats all at different stages of the forest’s lifecycle. All woodlands are important for wildlife, but it’s not just about trees. 

We have been working hard to protect and restore other habitats across England. We are proud that almost one fifth of our landscapes are types of open spaces managed primarily for wildlife. Open habitat is important for a range of species including this well-camouflaged nightjar, which is a bird that chooses to nest on the ground rather than in trees. 

We manage landscapes to provide the best balance of benefits for people, nature and the economy. Sometimes this means removing existing trees or choosing not to replant after harvesting timber, where this benefits the environment. This helps to restore important habitat like heathland, peatland and wetland areas.

Whenever we fell trees, more are planted to make sure forests are maintained for future generations. Last year we planted 8 million trees to replace the 2.3 million we harvested for timber.

Money raised from selling timber provides a sustainable income that we invest back in to caring for the nation’s forests, increasing the benefits they provide for people, nature and the economy. We're committed to growing the nation's forests by creating new woodlands for everyone to enjoy.

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