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Bluesky National Tree Map Helps Community Forest Rebuild Environment


One of England’s original Community Forest projects is using Bluesky’s National Tree Map to monitor progress and engage with stakeholders and the local community. The largest environmental regeneration project in Bedfordshire, the Forest of Marston Vale (The Forest) is one of the 12 Community Forests designated in the 1990s.

Designed to regenerate landscapes around towns and cities scarred by industrialisation, The Forest was created to address the effects of the brick making industry – active in the area between Bedford and Milton Keynes for more than 100 years. From a starting point of around 3 percent woodland cover in 1991, The Forest has a target of 30 percent cover by 2031 across the 61 square mile area.

“By transforming the landscape using trees and woodlands, we can transform the perceptions of a once-degraded area which has a direct impact on transforming prospects for the people who live, work and visit here. So it’s about much more than just the trees; it’s about regeneration. However, trees are at the heart of what we do – without planting millions of trees we won’t create a forest – so we need to be able to measure and monitor our progress,” commented James Russell, Forest Director of The Forest of Marston Vale.

Prior to the acquisition of the Bluesky National Tree Map data, which identifies the location, height and canopy cover of more than 280 million trees across Britain, The Forest relied on its own records and data from the Forestry Commission.

“While our own data and Forestry Commission data had their merits, neither was as accurate, comprehensive or as up to date as the Bluesky tree map,” continued James. “The use of the Bluesky data not only gives us critical data to assess our progress, but it also allows us to evaluate and quantify the benefits of this increased ‘forest cover’ to the local community.”

The Bluesky tree data was used by The Forest as part of a recent Progress and Impacts Study. As a result, it was concluded that tree cover had already increased to 15 percent, half of the overall target, with woodland cover up to 11 percent. Based on this ‘forest cover’ data, the study was then able to evidence that every £1 spent in creating The Forest to date had returned £11 in benefits to the area through improvements in employment, health and wellbeing, air quality, recreation, enhanced landscape, property values and, in due course, timber supply.

Moving forward, The Forest plans to use the Bluesky data to help prioritise future planting and to engage with local communities. It is hoped the data, when broken down Parish by Parish, will encourage local action by communities and be used to put trees and woodlands at the heart of Neighbourhood Plans.

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