National Tree Week: Big giveaway launched as West Midlands Virtual Forest passes 500,000 milestone
Published: Thursday 23 Nov 2023
Thousands of tree saplings are being given away across the region to celebrate more than half a million trees planted as part of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Virtual Forest initiative.
The WMCA is working with the Woodland Trust to provide local people with saplings of native species to plant in their gardens, community spaces, schools, or other nature sites as the new tree planting season gets underway.
Since January 2020, the WMCA has been encouraging residents and businesses to register the trees they have planted on the Virtual Forest.
The number of new trees registered is now approaching 600,000 – that’s one for every school age child living in the region.
To ensure that number keeps growing, tree packs can be collected from a number of locations across the region starting to mark National Tree Week (25 November-2 December).
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “Since we launched our Virtual Forest initiative just three years ago, nearly 600,000 trees have been planted right across our region. That’s a remarkable number and I want to extend my thanks to everyone who played a part in that.
“Trees improve our biodiversity and air quality, help us tackle the climate emergency and help us maintain our #WM2041 net zero commitment.
“National Tree Week gives us a moment to reflect on the significant benefits that the trees we plant now will deliver for many generations to come. I’d encourage local people to help keep this momentum going by attending one of the tree giveaway events. By then registering them on our Virtual Forest, we can keep count towards our next milestone of one million trees planted.”
Trees provide a range of benefits, and not just environmental. In addition to biodiversity and air quality they can help slow the flow of water to reduce flood risk and their canopies provide shade and reduce heat buildup in summer months.
That’s why planting new trees is one of the priorities of the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan, which sets out to increase local tree cover from its current 1.5 per cent to 13 per cent.
Increasing the number of trees is also a key action in the West Midlands’ #WM2041 drive to become a net zero region within the next two decades.
Cllr John Cotton, WMCA portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The West Midlands is a densely populated urban area so it’s a great achievement that our region is planting trees at such an impressive rate with almost 600,000 now registered on the Virtual Forest.
“Local authorities are showing their commitment to tree planting and in Birmingham we are proud to be one of 170 Tree Cities designated by the United Nations. Residents can make their own contribution by taking advantage of the WMCA’s tree giveaway to ensure our tree-planting strategy continues to have a positive impact.”
Ben Green, external affairs officer for the Woodland Trust, said: “Trees are essential threads of life, crucial for stabilising soil, producing oxygen and providing habitats for wildlife. They contribute to the beauty and balance of our world, making excellent use of land. Imagine life without them – barren and challenging.
“We encourage communities and landowners to join us and the WMCA in planting trees for a greener future. We offer substantial financial support, along with free advice and guidance, to help you make a valuable contribution to this important cause.”
A limited number of free tree saplings will be available to collect from the following locations:
- Friday 24 November, 10am-3pm: The Rock Church, Lichfield House, Walsall, WS1 1TJ during a health check session run by Walsall Housing Group.
- Saturday 2nd December, 11am-2.30pm: ThinkTank in Birmingham during the Eden Project Communities winter warmer event.
- Saturday 9 December, 11am-5pm, Friar Park Millenium Centre in Wednesbury during a Community Christmas Event.
The West Midlands Virtual Forest covers Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton, as well as Warwickshire and Shropshire.
Community groups or organisations can submit requests to host a tree giveaway on the WMCA and find out how to apply for a share of the new £1 million Community Environment Fund to support local nature projects on the WMCA website.
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