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Man fined after illegally removing thousands of trees in protected forest: 'The woodland has been effectively eradicated'

"This was a blatant exceeding of the permission you had been granted."

"This was a blatant exceeding of the permission you had been granted."

Photo Credit: Gower Society

A man who illegally removed 20 acres of trees in Wales was fined this month for the offense, which caused destruction unmatched in decades.

Jeff Lane was assessed a £1,500 ($1,898) sanction and £11,280 ($14,275) confiscation order for the 2019 criminal act on his property in Gower, Swansea, the BBC reported.

It was "the worst case of illegal tree felling" documented by Natural Resources Wales in 30 years.

In 2022, Lane was convicted of cutting down the trees without a license and noncompliance with an order to restock the area. He reportedly earned £78,614 ($99,400) from selling the wood, and it would cost £52,000 ($65,750) to replant the native and wet woodland.

The case in Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court marked the first time the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 was used in prosecuting a tree-felling event.

Lane said the trees were rotting and dangerous, per the BBC, and was granted a license to thin them but not clear them.

"It wouldn't be going too far to say the woodland has been effectively eradicated," Judge Richard Kember said. "You were given a thinning licence designed to encourage the habitat to flourish and grow. It is for a reduction, not an eradication.

"This was a blatant exceeding of the permission you had been granted."

Authorities are cracking down on this kind of crime all over the globe, and some offenders face jail time. In its most extreme form, cutting down trees is deforestation. In the Amazon, that has led to ecosystems that cannot fully recover from droughts, which are increasing in frequency and severity because of the warming planet; it could make our difficult climate situation much worse.

It's necessary for governments to highlight the value of trees and protect them in this increasingly disaster-prone environment. Rapidly rising global temperatures are hurting our health, but trees can help heal Earth and ensure a safer future for humans and wildlife. Planting trees along highways can lessen air pollution, for example.

In addition to storing our carbon (4.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in U.K. forests alone, according to Forest Research), trees boost our physical and mental health, cool our neighborhoods, and filter our water, among many other benefits.

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