LONDON — Britain's government will soon unveil plans to sell around half of the woodlands it oversees, paving the way for a huge expansion in holiday resorts, golf courses and commercial logging operations, The Sunday Telegraph reported.Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman will unveil the plans to dispose about 50 percent of the 748,000 hectares (1.85 million acres) of forest within days, according to the newspaper.
Laws overseeing so-called ancient forests, such as the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest, are most likely to be changed to allow companies to cut down trees, according to the Telegraph.
"We are looking to energize our forests by bringing in fresh ideas and investment, and by putting conservation in the hands of local communities," a source close to the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told the newspaper.
A third of the land will be sold before 2015, and the rest by 2020, a government source told the newspaper.
Legislation dealing with forests dates back to the Magna Carta, which was forced onto King John in 1215 and formed the basis for English law, the newspaper reported.
A group including Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Boston-based Prudential Timber Investments Inc. agreed to buy 106,000 hectares of trees from Fletcher Challenge Forests Ltd. for NZ$725 million ($469 million)
Foresters such as Fletcher are selling forests to concentrate on more profitable timber mills and distribution as the local dollar's surge, 23 percent this year, erodes the value of export log sales. Investors such as AMP Capital Investors (New Zealand) Ltd.'s Nat Vallabh say the North American funds can take a longer-term view of their investments.
The forest ``is regarded as one of the best plantation forests anywhere in the world,'' said Ian Jolly, a New Zealand spokesman for GMO Renewable Resources, investment adviser for Harvard Management Co. New Zealand has 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of forest