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How should planners and decision-makers account for cultural value from trees and woods?


The cultural value of trees, woods and forests is becoming an increasingly important aspect of sustainable forest management. Measures of this value are now included in European Commission impact assessments, the Montreal Process and pan-European indicators of the Ministerial Conference for the Protection of Forests in Europe. Forest Research explored the complex interplay between cultural values and forest planning, looking at how cultural activities and projects, including community consultation and engagement, can influence and improve management practices.

Key findings

The project developed a typology which can help forest planners to distinguish between sources of cultural value and types of cultural benefit:

Cultural sources

  • Intrinsic to visitors: social capital, skills, knowledge, values
  • Intrinsic to the site: archaeological remains, historical features, woodland diversity, wildlife, signs of management history, stories, practices, artworks

Cultural benefits

  • Health and well-being
  • Social contacts
  • Personal pride: (physical achievements, personal knowledge)
  • Education
  • Inspiration
  • Spiritual well-being
  • Economic benefits (recreation and tourism, local economic activity)

In consultation and community engagement activities, the research found a distinction between decision-making processes and service provision:

  • Decision-making: formalised processes such as Forest Design Plan procedures or environmental impact assessments entail a mixture of formal consultation and dialogue with relevant authorities, and more informal engagement with publics and interested parties
  • Service provision: everyday activities in woodlands performed by community, recreation and education rangers as they lead walks, run events, and host education visits in which they engage with local communities, find out about their needs and gather information that helps to shape management plans and strategies


Funders and partners

Commissioned and funded by the Forestry Commission.


Liz O’Brien



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Liz O'Brien

Principal Social Scientist