(Source: Forestry commission)
|Land area under forestry, 1921 to 1998|
|Source: Forestry Industry Council, 1998|
Forest ownership in England is divided between the Forestry Commission and "private owners" with 77.9% of woodlands owned by the private sector. The private sector includes farmers, small woodland owners, Local Authorities, integrated farms, voluntary organisations, larger estates and investors. Woodlands may be managed for timber, though it may not be the only purpose - leisure, education, conservation, habitat maintenance, regeneration and improvement of the urban environment are all important functions.
At 9%, the South West has greater woodland cover than the average for England (7.5%). The region's woodlands amount to approximately a fifth of England's total. However, there are areas where cover is less, for example South Hams or Cornwall (5%), or where large areas of forestry are inappropriate environmentally, such as National Parks or Moor uplands. Other areas such as Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, have significantly higher woodland cover with Gloucestershire the highest at 11%. 18% of the woodland cover can be classified as ancient semi-natural (over 400 years old) which is very similar to England's average of 20%.
The 9% cover of woodlands >2ha. amounts to 206,400ha; of this 69% is broad-leaved (141,600ha.) and 31% conifer (64,800ha.). As 3% of the whole is felled, a further 3% is new planting which suggests positive management. Forest Enterprise manages 35,800ha. (17%) and private ownerships 170,600ha. (83%).