Warwickshire County Council has joined the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Virtual Forest as part of its response to the climate emergency and restoring nature. The Virtual Forest is an opportunity for everyone in the West Midlands to get involved in making the region a greener, happier and healthier place to live, work and play. The platform is an online mapping tool that enables anyone who has planted a tree to register it on the Virtual Forest and it is hoped that all new tree planting across Warwickshire, and the wider region, will be included. It is part of the WMCA’s long-term commitment to the environment, #WM2041, which is the regional plan to be carbon neutral by 2041 and to restore and enhance the natural environment. The Virtual Forest fits perfectly with the long-term commitment of Warwickshire’s local authorities to plant a tree for every resident in the County and is a highly effective tool to record tree planting as the data can be interrogated at any spatial level (e.g. county, district and borough, parish). Warwickshire County Council is currently exploring promoting the Virtual Forest as a requirement within local authority grant awards (such as the Green Shoots Community Climate Change Fund), that would allow it to be used as an auditing tool. The platform could also be used to record WCC Forestry Commission and Climate Change planting schemes across Warwickshire. Trees are beneficial for many reasons: they capture carbon from the atmosphere and harmful particulates in the air we breathe. They create shade when it’s very hot, and they help reduce the risk of flooding. They also create habitats for wildlife from the moment they are planted, until long after they have died. Planting them, and getting out amongst them, improves people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
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