Before the First World War, various policy entrepreneurs unsuccessfully advocated productivist scientific afforestation in Britain. During the war, timber imports were constrained by submarine blockade. The Government set up the Forestry Commission to deliver coniferous afforestation for strategic self-sufficiency. This policy was resistant to changes in geopolitical, economic and social conditions. It produced forests ill-equipped to provide for the needs of later society. The research considers whether, in hindsight, the actors could have applied greater forethought, developed better foresight, and ended the programme earlier. Eclectic mixed methods were used to explore this policy inertia. Quantitative content analysis of newly digitised archival and parliamentary material provided statistical trends. Political responsibility was explored by interview and email including from former forestry ministers. Personal autoethnographic witness from a complete member researcher was brought to bear. A range of change conditions set within policy approaches, including the Advocacy Coalition Framework, were used to assess the conditions for policy change or inertia. The evidence suggests that previous actors were largely prisoners of the mindsets and frames of their times, and subject to powerful institutional inertia. There were few alternative voices or discourses which could challenge the power of the Forestry Commission as an institution. Former forestry policy-makers can therefore be largely absolved of blame for failure to better predict the future needs of society. If it is manifestly difficulty to develop foresight, then other strategies are required. The creation of adaptable forests is therefore a priority.