Rural farming communities in Wales could be ‘wiped out’ if widespread reforestation is allowed, according to the chairman of the National Farmers Union in Wales.
The warning comes as the government plans on a large scale to plant millions of trees across the country to create a new national forest.
But some communities are worried about the number of Welsh farms sold to large-scale investment companies, who plan to create forests to offset carbon emissions.
In the small Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold earlier this year to Foresight Group – a multibillion pound private equity firm based in The Shard.
He plans to plant thousands of trees in the valley.
“These fields – it’s generations of hard work to produce such meadows and to see them destroyed just so an investment company can plant trees for me, it’s incredibly upsetting,” said villager Sheila Davies. .
A group of residents – led by John Llewellyn – are fighting plans proposed by Foresight, fearing that the afforestation is largely made up of accomplices who could damage the soil and negatively impact the landscape.
“This area is threatened by a slow black cover of fir trees. Our concern is that a proposal for afforestation has been accepted and that a non-native company, with a non-native advisor and a non-native agent, is coming to plant trees which we can trust. think it’s the wrong trees, in the wrong place for the wrong reason, ”says Llewellyn.
He points out that locals are not against tree planting as a whole.
“But we have to have the right trees in the right place and for the right reason. What we are looking at are the wrong trees for ecological and environmental purposes – we are looking at a slow black blanket that will smother Nye Bevan’s tapestry and this blanket. will pose a threat to biodiversity, habitat and the environment, ”he said.
The Foresight Sustainable Forestry Company told Sky News that its plans to create new forests and forests are “recognized by the Welsh government as an important part of the dual fight against climate change and biodiversity loss”.
He added, “We will be planting a diverse species mix in Frongoch comprising over 25% non-commercial hardwoods. Foresight never plants trees on land that can support the growth of productive and cash food crops.
“A key part of our approach to afforestation is always to consult and work with local communities before any planting begins. “
The Welsh government aims to plant 86 million trees by the end of this decade.
He argues that properly managed afforestation can provide a “huge opportunity” for rural economies to create green jobs and harvest timber for high-value goods.
But he admits that the government “is keen to prevent outside interests from buying land.”
It’s not just the locals who are worried about the loss of farms.
The National Farmers Union Cymru says any afforestation in Wales must be done alongside farming – rather than replacing it.
John Davies is the President of NFU Cymru. He said: ‘There is a lot of concern because family farms are the backbone of our rural communities in Wales and if you see that happening it is removing these families from these areas, and it is removing these families. employment opportunities for 30, 40 years.
“Job opportunities in the forestry sector are not as plentiful as in the agricultural sector.
“What we want to see is the integrated forestry approach to agriculture here. It is not a good trees, bad cows option, it is about fully integrating our forestry approach into our. agriculture in the future.
“If you see a monoculture approach to this and widespread reforestation – that’s a fundamental change and it’s not what we’re looking for in Wales. It’s really the decimation of this community, isn’t isn’t it? “
The Welsh government says it wants to work with Welsh farmers on its tree planting program.
But Sky News has learned that in central and south Wales, up to 20 farms may have been sold to companies.
Owning land, the income potential of timber, and being able to sell carbon credits to any business from planted trees are all great assets for those who make a part of the Welsh countryside their own.