An ambitious £5m project has been launched to double the amount of woodland across Lancashire.
Ribble Rivers Trust’s 10 year campaign aims to plant more than 500,000 trees in a drive to tackle climate change, improve air quality and reduce flooding.
The trust is planning to create 60 miles of new or restored woodland alongside the rivers Ribble, Lune and Wyre together with their network of tributaries.
Lancashire is one of the least wooded areas in the UK and project leaders want private and public sector supporters together with community-based groups and conservation charities to join the campaign.
According to the National Forest Inventory, less than six per cent of Lancashire has tree cover – less than half the national average and one of the lowest of any counties in the UK.
Lancashire Woodland Connect aims to raise £500,000 per year of funding and the trust says progress has already been made towards this year’s target.
Co-ordinated and managed by the Ribble Rivers Trust, by 2030 the new waterside woodlands will extend across some 350 hectares of Lancashire – stretching from the Yorkshire Border to the coast beyond Preston.
It will also see the creation 50 full and part-time jobs and engage more than 3,500 volunteers.
Whalley Village Hall Committee was one of the first community groups to commit to funding the initiative with a £10,000 donation.
The area was hit by catastrophic flooding at Christmas 2015 and the village hall provided refuge for the families affected and was a focal point for the clear-up operation.
Ribble Rivers Trust Director Jack Spees said: “There is huge appetite from communities across the Ribble catchment to do their bit to tackle climate change, increase biodiversity and contribute to natural flood risk management.
“By working together, we can achieve so much more than alone and Whalley Village Hall’s generous donation demonstrates the kind of leadership and vision that we hope others will replicate.
“Ribble Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council have undertaken a study to identify which communities’ health will benefit the most from community-led action to improve the environment, including woodland creation.
“It’s clear that there are significant benefits to be achieved by expanding woodland cover and that this should be a priority for all, but it is equally clear that the scale of this project is beyond the capacity of a single organisation and that a partnership is required to take this forward.
“Ribble Rivers Trust has planted more than 150,000 trees across Lancashire over the last five years through the delivery of multiple woodland creation projects. The trust believes it has the skills, knowledge and experience to lead a concerted effort to achieve significant woodland creation at a catchment scale.”
Keith Ashcroft, Environment Agency Area Director for Cumbria and Lancashire, said: “Half a million new trees across these catchments will have an enormous impact on the quality, the health of the landscape – and how people interact with it.
“This ambitious scheme will improve the county’s natural ability to slow water through the catchments, which in turn will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and improve the resilience to climate change.”
“Not only will it remove thousands of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and improve local air quality, it will also provide greater opportunities for recreational access and make a significant contribution to improving local wildlife and importantly, people’s health and well-being.”