The Forest Education Initiative (FEI) was created in 1992 and launched in 1993/4, by the current president Sir Terence Mallinson. Sir Mallinson was raised in the Epping Forest area and his father was asked by the retiring superintendent of the forest to chair a trust that was to be set up in 1978 to interpret the forest’s history and wildlife. Asked by his father to take on the role, Mr Mallinson recognised the importance and relevance due to his involvement in the Timber Trade Federation and his work in the business of timber importing, manufacturing and processing of wood. The organisation, called the Epping Forest Centenary Trust (EFCT), was created and focused on raising awareness about the environment and conservation. In time there became a desire within the Trust to carry out more activities with children and young people, to develop a programme and encourage them out into Epping Forest. As part of his role as a Commissioner for the Forestry Commission (the Board has a number of statutory duties and powers to, for example, promote the interests of forestry) he raised the idea of engaging more with children and young people through, for example, the FC visitor centres. From these ideas and discussions FEI was developed.
It was clearly outlined at the beginning that FEI was not set up to replace or duplicate existing effort in the education field but to work with others to reinforce and assist their work (FEI, 1995). The idea was not for EFCT or the FC to run the FEI but to encourage others to get involved and develop engagement and activities that suited them, leading to the development of local activities via what became known as cluster groups
The target audiences for FEI were identified as:
Children and young people, teachers and youth leaders, head teachers and governors, lecturers in education colleges and departments, educational advisors in science, geography and environmental studies, others with environmental education interests and people in the forestry timber and processing industries (FEI, 2001)
Core funding or in-kind administrative or legal support was provided by the Partners, 7 forestry and environmental organisations across Britain, and further fund raising was developed through a Corporate Associate Scheme during the mid 2000’s. In recent years the FC providing funding for the partnership grant scheme and staff.