Watching a TV debate about The Big Society this morning I wandered off into what mathematicians call a 'thought experiment'.
In my area Rother Guardians is a well-established group of volunteers with a good track record on the Rother Woods project dealing with the conservation of butterflies and moths in the Rother and Brede Valleys of East Sussex. Supposing this group wrote to Defra and said it was willing to manage the Forestry Commission's woods within the Rother Woods area on a voluntary basis. I know this would raise all sorts of probably insoluble issues, but it would be interesting to see what the Government's response was. Apparently they are enthusiastic to encourage this kind of initiative and it is conceivable, but unlikely, that they would be keen to help the group from thought experiment to reality.
If groups like this don't come forward, I suspect there will be very few others prepared to step up to the plate and tackle the time consuming tasks of finance, management, insurance and liaison with other bodies and so forth that would be required to do the job properly. However, it would be rather splendid if Rother Guardians were given enough money to buy or lease the woods and employ a small team of professionals to manage them with the volunteers remaining as trustees of the enterprise.
Perhaps if voluntary groups ventured into these waters, without any obligation, it would be better than simply standing on the sidelines and watching the wealthy gobble up our precious woodlands.