photo by Dan Tentler (vissago on Flickr CC)

A backlash against the UK government’s plans to privatize vast amounts of national forest has resulted in a softening of language concerning the proposed measure by the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Part of the austerity measures of “greenest government ever”, the plan has sparked a widespread public outcry. The selling off of 258,000 hectares of Britain’s publicly owned woodland is now being presented by the government as an option that is being considered, rather than a done deal.

UK Environment Secretary Caroline Spellman is quoted in a BBC report:

Unlike some of the consultations we saw in the past, like the Post Office closures, where you knew it was a done deal, this is genuinely open and we want people to get involved with this consultation because it’s about greater local accountability and some greener solutions.

Apparently the British people aren’t about to swallow the line that their forests need to be sold off forever to cover public debt. Raising taxes and freezing salaries is one thing – those measures can easily be reversed. A return to the days of the landed gentry via Thatcherite policies favoring businesses over people seems particularly scary when it comes to the transfer of publicly owned lands. Forests are national and environmental symbols to Britons of all political stripes and their possible destruction seems to have struck a nerve.

Of course reality is never that simple. Get more details on the story in the Guardian and the Telegraph and check out the following video report from Euronews: