Warwickshire joins the region’s virtual forest

Warwickshire County Council has joined the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Virtual Forest as part of its response to the climate emergency and restoring nature.

The Virtual Forest is an opportunity for everyone in the West Midlands to get involved in making the region a greener, happier and healthier place to live, work and play.

The platform is an online mapping tool that enables anyone who has planted a tree to register it on the Virtual Forest and it is hoped that all new tree planting across Warwickshire, and the wider region, will be included. It is part of the WMCA’s long-term commitment to the environment, #WM2041, which is the regional plan to be carbon neutral by 2041 and to restore and enhance the natural environment.

Warwickshire joins the region’s virtual forest

L/R Cllr Heather Timms, Warwickshire’s portfolio lead on climate; Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands; Kristie Naimo, director at ARC (Achieving Results in Communities) who manage the Children's Forest; and Mike Webb, natural capital programme manager at the WMCA

Cllr Heather Timms, Warwickshire’s portfolio lead on climate, joined Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, at The Children’s Forest at Leasowe Farm in Radford Semele to pledge the Council’s support to the Virtual Forest mapping platform by planting two trees. The event on Tuesday 18 January also presented an opportunity to renew the commitment to planting a tree for every resident in the County.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA, said: “We must all continue to work together to make our region cleaner and greener. Tree planting is a wonderful example of that in action and is a vital part of our commitment to achieve net zero by 2041. It's a great achievement that since we launched the Virtual Forest two years ago, more than 45,000 trees have been planted.

“So it’s fantastic news that Warwickshire County Council has joined the Virtual Forest, with plans to plant more than 600,000 trees, including the restoration of forests and wooded areas that have been long lost to time, such as Shakespeare’s ancient Forest of Arden.

“These brilliant collective efforts improve our natural environment and help protect, restore and enhance our communities.”

Cllr Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and the Environment, said: “There are no greater challenges facing humanity than those posed by the Climate Emergency. The response to this crisis cannot be met by Governments, local or national, acting alone. It will require a concerted effort by all of us, making changes, large and small, to reverse the damage that we have done to our planet and its ecosystems. Tree planting, reversing a century of tree removal, will be integral to this response.

“The site of the Children’s Forest at Leasowe Farm, our chosen venue for this announcement, is a fantastic example of a large-scale tree-planting initiative created by and for the local community to be enjoyed for generations to come helping us to create a child friendly county full of green spaces for children and young people to live and play.

“It is our hope that future tree planting schemes across Warwickshire will all be recorded on the WMCA Virtual Forest as Warwickshire strives towards a tree being planted for every resident.

“The Woodlands Trust have stated that in order to meet the UK’s carbon net-zero target, it is going to need to plant millions more trees across the country. In Warwickshire, we are now committed to playing our part in this essential planting.”

Kristie Naimo, Director at ARC (Achieving Results in Communities) who run the Children’s Forest Planting Scheme at Leasowe Farm, said: “The Children's Forest is a very special way to plant a forest and aims to support the creation of a healthy future for the children of all species.

“It is really important to us that when the children and families come to plant trees here that they are also thinking about how they will be cared for and tended in the future. We hope the children and young people planting trees here this season will come back to visit the trees in years to come and marvel at the wonderful outdoor space that they had a hand in creating.”

The Virtual Forest fits perfectly with the long-term commitment of Warwickshire’s local authorities to plant a tree for every resident in the County and is a highly effective tool to record tree planting as the data can be interrogated at any spatial level (e.g. county, district and borough, parish).

Warwickshire County Council is currently exploring promoting the Virtual Forest as a requirement within local authority grant awards (such as the Green Shoots Community Climate Change Fund), that would allow it to be used as an auditing tool. The platform could also be used to record WCC Forestry Commission and Climate Change planting schemes across Warwickshire.

Trees are beneficial for many reasons: they capture carbon from the atmosphere and harmful particulates in the air we breathe. They create shade when it's very hot, and they help reduce the risk of flooding. They also create habitats for wildlife from the moment they are planted, until long after they have died. Planting them, and getting out amongst them, improves people’s physical and mental wellbeing. 

For more information about how Warwickshire County Council is facing the challenges of the climate change emergency, visit: https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/strategies-policies-legislation/facing-challenge-climate-change-warwickshire

Get the latest news about how Warwickshire County Council and partners are facing the challenge of the climate emergency and how you can get involved: http://eepurl.com/hrk-zf

To register your tree planting on the Virtual Forest platform, visit www.wmvirtualforest.co.uk

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