msnbc.com
updated 10/24/2010 8:32:38 AM ET 2010-10-24T12:32:38

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.

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"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.

The sale of the woodlands comes as the British government tries to make enormous budget cuts called for under the Conservative-led coalition's cost-cutting drive.

Story: U.K. faces sharpest spending cuts since WWII

Britain will cut half a million jobs, sharply reduce welfare payments and raise the retirement age as part of an unprecedented plan that will test the strength of both the economy and the government.

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