The Forestry Commission is the Government Department responsible for forestry policy throughout Great Britain. It has a Board of Commissioners with duties and powers prescribed by statute, consisting of a Chairman and up to ten other Forestry Commissioners, including its Director General, who are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of Ministers.
Forestry is a devolved matter. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has responsibility for forestry in England as well as certain activities such as international affairs and plant health which remain reserved by Westminster. Scottish Ministers have responsibility for forestry in Scotland and the Welsh Assembly Government has responsibility for forestry in Wales.
England was once largely covered with woodland, but over many centuries this was cleared and used to meet the needs of an increasing population.
As long as 1,000 years ago, England's woodland cover was already only 15 per cent of its land area.
By the beginning of the 20th century it had reached a low point of 5 per cent.
At the turn of the second millennium, woodland cover has increased but remains low at just 8 per cent. Today, woodlands and forests cover just over 1 million hectares of England, containing around 2 billion trees.
Around three-quarters of England's woodlands and forests are privately owned and about one-quarter are public forests managed by the Forestry Commission, through its agency Forest Enterprise.
There are many thousands of small farm woodlands, but little ownership with more than 100 hectares (250 acres) of woodland.
Management of woodlands for sporting activities and amenity is an important objective on many woodland estates and on farms. Timber production is typically important on the larger estates.
An increasing number of woodlands are managed for conservation and recreation by charitable trusts and private owners.