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50 Million Trees Set to Be Planted in Northern England

Real talk: things worth doing often take a lot of time.

It took Forrest Gump three years, two months, and 14 days to run across America.

Construction of the Death Star? A huge 20 years after the Clone Wars.

And for 50 million new trees in northern England — it will take 25 years.

Enter the Northern Forest: an ambitious project to create a huge new woodland between Liverpool and Hull over the next quarter century.

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The Northern Forest will encompass across 25,000 hectares, according to Sky News — connecting five community forests across a 120-mile stretch along the M62: the Mersey Forest, Manchester City of Trees, South Yorkshire Community Forest, the Leeds White Rose Forest and the HEYwoods Project.

The project is due to cost £500 million, with most of the money coming from charities. But economic benefits will reportedly abound, as its backers claim it will bring in £2 billion in boosted rural tourism. So maybe money can grow on trees?

The UK government will contribute £5.7 million and review its tree planting incentives.

Don’t forget to plan ahead. You’ll certainly need whatever version of virtual reality Instagram is happening in 2043: there will be bats, birds, and endangered red squirrels with brand new habitats prancing around, chasing acorns, according to the report. They'll probably be reenacting the musical scenes from “The Sword in the Stone”.

Don’t remember that one? Refresh: David Beckham updated the 1963 animated movie in his decidedly less chirpy acting debut last year.

Anyway, back to the forest! The Woodland Trust warned last year that the UK was cutting down more trees than it was planting — creating just 1,000 new hectares in 2017. But Austin Brady, director of conservation, was almost jovial in a press statement as they announced the change of direction. The organisation is leading the revival with local Community Forests.

"The Northern Forest will accelerate the creation of new woodland and support sustainable management of existing woods right across the area," Brady said. "Planting many more trees, woods and forests will deliver a better environment for all — locking up carbon on a large scale, boosting wildlife habitat, and greening our towns and cities."

Read More: 7 Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree and Help the Planet

Sadly, England does not compare well with its neighbours. Just 10% of the country is covered in woodland, in contrast to 36% in the rest of Europe — while the area planned to be covered by the Northern Forest currently has a tree cover of just 8%.

It’s good news for flooding defences and the fight against climate change — but Paul de Zylva from Friends of Earth was markedly less impressed by the suggested sources of further funding in an interview with BBC News, and joined critics who suggested that the £5.7 million pledged by the government was nowhere near enough.

"It is a supreme irony that tree planters will have to get funding from HS2, which threatens 35 ancient woodlands north of Birmingham,” he said. "If the government really cared about woodlands it wouldn't be routing a high speed train through them — and it wouldn't be allowing this weight of this project to be carried by charity."

Read More: This 105-Year-Old Woman Has Planted Hundreds of Trees in India

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, praised the project. The announcement forms part of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, described by the BBC as “long delayed”, which is due for release this week.

"Trees are some of our most cherished natural assets and living evidence of our investment for future generations,” Gove said. "Not only are they a source of beauty and wonder, but a way to manage flood risk, protect precious species, and create healthier places for us to work and live.”

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.15 for developing life on land. Although this excludes singing squirrels (we’re working on it), you can still take action on loads of other important things here.

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