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Gloucestershire Business News

Survey launched to discover if residents want the Forest of Dean to become a UNESCO Reserve

The Forest of Dean District Council and the Forest Economic Partnership (FEP) have launched a survey to discover whether the public and businesses want the Forest of Dean internationally recognised as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Initially, the council and the FEP are helping to explain to Forest of Dean residents what Biosphere Reserves are, and asking people to complete a short survey to gauge support for achieving Biosphere Reserve status in the area.

Cabinet member for climate emergency, Cllr Chris McFarling, said: "For many, this may be the first time they hear about biosphere reserves, and I encourage everyone to engage with the information available.

"Biosphere Reserve status has the potential to protect the Forest of Dean for generations. It is about strengthening our relationship with nature by introducing initiatives that reduce or eliminate activities that negatively affect the environment. This is achieved by promoting the wise use of natural and human resources, protecting unique habitats and promoting health and wellbeing through engagement with the natural world.

"This will only happen though, if there is support from local residents and local businesses. Please take part in the survey and voice your opinion, to ensure you get the forest you want."

Currently there are more than 700 Biosphere Reserves around the world, with seven active reserves in the UK, including North Devon, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight. Biosphere Reserves enable the community to work together to create a shared vision for future developments in their area.

This can include education and research, where local schools will be able to develop workshops and universities can carry out research on the Forest of Dean as a Biosphere Reserve. There is also potential for community-led projects such as sustainable coppicing that promote healthy woodland growth.

The status would protect the Forest of Dean's Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and ancient monuments. It would not introduce any new sets of plans, but work with those already in place to drive sustainable development.

The UNESCO branding for the Forest of Dean would bring economic benefits, members of the Office for National Statistics working with FEP researched the economic effects of adopting a Forest of Dean Biosphere Reserve, discovering that for every £1 invested in becoming a Biosphere Reserve, there will be a £3.89 return for the district.

Cabinet member for economy, Cllr Bernie O'Neill, said: "Biosphere Reserve status has the potential to bring long term economic benefits to our area. It would encourage sustainable, long-term development projects, while at the same time increasing the brand value of the Forest of Dean, as a tourism destination and for the goods produced in the region."

The FEP secured funding from Arts Council England in May 2021, which enabled them to commission artists to create visual and audio artworks to help educate the public and businesses about what reserve status could mean for the area.

The podcast series, The Forest We Want, features episodes with Kevin Stannard, Deputy Surveyor of the Forest of Dean, discussing how urgent change is needed to protect the forest, and Rich Daniels of Hopewell Colliery discussing the ancient tradition of freemining.

The short film explores the Forest of Dean's environmental, cultural and industrial legacy, looking into how a Biosphere Reserve could play a key role in protecting the area moving forward.

To find out more about the Forest of Dean's potential Biosphere Reserve status and check out the survey, visit https://fep2050.co.uk/the-forest-we-want

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