Strategic Directions for the National Forest Estate

Response from Reforesting Scotland to 2012 consultation

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the future direction of the National Forest Estate.

We agree with the raison d'etre for the National Forest Estate:

Reforesting Scotland is particularly interested in the rural development benefits which would accrue from a more diverse forest estate, such as that found in many European countries, particularly in northern Europe.

The key points we would like to make are:

  1. Over reliance on Sitka spruce - Sitka spruce has been a very useful, easy to establish and fast growing tree. However, the proportion of Sitka spruce in the national forest estate, particularly for restocking, is dangerously high. We are concerned about pests and the lack of effort being made to establish higher value conifers such as European larch and Douglas fir.
  2. Choosing suitable sites for productive broadleaves & minor conifers - As bare land is afforested, access, drainage and microclimate are improved. Soils are sometimes improved. These gains could be reflected in the planting of a wider range of species at restocking. Some forest landscapes, such as in parts of Argyll and Perthshire, have a varied topography. Within these landscapes will be areas suitable for planting with species other than Sitka spruce or Scots pine. Reforesting Scotland would like to see advantage being taken of these opportunities and a wider range of species being planted in second and subsequent rotations.
  3. Fine-grained approach - To take advantage of these opportunities, a finer-grained approach is required, using ESC and other tools. Suitable areas down to a resolution of 0.25 hectares could be planted with hardwoods or minor conifers. GIS systems are increasingly sophisticated and such areas could be mapped. In varied topography, such a fine-grained approach is recommended.
  4. Continue with repositioning, community ownership, woodland crofts, woodlots and affordable housing - All of these initiatives help to bring the benefits of the national forest estate to the local communities which live next to them. All are commendable but some are happening at too slow a pace. We recommend that measures are taken to increase the uptake in woodland crofts in particular.
  5. Support hardwood & minor conifer markets - Just as mainstream softwood processing has been encouraged by Forestry Commission, and other Government agencies, in the past, so we would like to see the utilisation of hardwood and minor softwood timber also being supported. An important part of this is through ensuring that small parcels of timber suitable for the users of smaller volumes of timber are made available for sale and publicised widely.
  6. Training of local work force - If the National Forest Estate in the future is going to be more diverse, producing a wider variety of timber, then the forest workforce will need to be trained up to deal with it. Skilled operators will be required for a full range of equipment from modern timber harvesters and forwarders, through intermediate technology such as mini forwarders and iron horses to real horses.
  7. 1000 Huts - Just as there is a need to provide affordable houses for the local forest workforce, there is also a need to supply the demand for simple forest dwellings or huts to enable urban Scots to better connect with nature than they have been able to in the past. The National Forest Estate is an ideal place to explore this concept.
  8. Wild harvest - There are many products other than timber which can be harvested from Scotland’s public forests. Reforesting Scotland has been at the forefront of identifying these, drawing up codes of practice for collection and supporting wild harvest foraging.
  9. Increase naturalness from a very unnatural starting point - Although there has been some progress with increasing open space, broadleaves and dead wood in the National Forest Estate, we are starting from a very unnatural situation and have a long journey ahead. We welcome any further steps forward and look forward to the time when our National Forest Estate is both semi-natural and productive.

Donald McPhillimy, Director

30 July 2012

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