The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has welcomed the final report from the Independent Panel on Forestry, which recommends that public forest estate should remain in public ownership.
The government has backed the recommendation. Last year Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman announced that a planned sell-off of public forests was being called off.
The Panel reported its recommendations on public forests today. It said forests to be held in trust for the nation.
The Panel was chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones.
He said woodlands can offer solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing society today.
"There is untapped potential within England's woodlands to create jobs, to sustain skills and livelihoods, to improve the health and wellbeing of people and to provide better and more connected places for nature," he said.
Ben Stafford, CPRE’s head of campaigns, said:
"We congratulate the Panel for setting out an ambitious vision for our woodlands. We particularly welcome its call to increase England’s woodland cover by 50% by 2060. Initiating a competition on where to create a second National Forest for England, following in the footsteps of the successful Midlands National Forest, would be one good way to start working towards this ambition.
"We are delighted that the Panel has recommended that the public forest estate should remain in public ownership, and that the Government has quickly endorsed that call. Swift action is now needed to increase access to those public woodlands, and to private woods too, as advocated by the Panel.
"The real test now is how the government will act to take forward these ambitious recommendations."
Mr Stafford added:
"Ministers will rightly take time to consider the report, but the six month timetable they have set themselves is long enough. We need to maintain momentum on this issue. The hundreds of thousands of people who protested against the original sell-off plans will want to see a positive new vision for woods and trees that will guarantee their future for generations to come."