WWF-UK (formerly World Wide Fund) is striving for "significant increases" in the area of forest that are properly protected and well managed and asked to visit the Jerah woodland creation scheme, near Stirling, to find out how the team there is going about their work on sustainable forestry day to day, and what challenges and opportunities they have in doing so.
Woodland creation in Scotland is a big Scottish Government policy which also has an international context in respect of commitments to countering climate change and expansion of a truly sustainable resource, says WWF-UK.
Jerah was designed over a two-year period and planted in 2015, involving 583ha of woodland creation using 1.3 million trees (and 16 species). The aim was to create a sustainable, productive timber resource that protected and enhanced key habitats and promoted other benefits such as public access, landscape, interpretation of cultural heritage and to mitigate the potential flood risk to Menstrie village.
Tilhill Forestry Central Scotland district manager Andrew Vaughan said: "The WWF team was particularly interested in the scale and scope of the project. We were able to explain the many challenges we faced such as the short timescales. For us it was interesting to hear that the issues with forestry and changing land use we face in the UK are identical to those in developing countries like Indonesia and Mozambique.
"We explained how we went about delivering the project, how the forest was designed and the immense amount of work that has taken place to make the area accessible while mitigating any potential flood risks."
WWF-UK global forest and trade network manager UK Julia Young said: "We work with business across different sectors to promote better forest management and we wanted to visit a current, challenging project. The reality of what you think and what happens on the ground can be very different so it was an important opportunity to see and hear firsthand about the challenges, what’s been successful and how this valuable resource will develop in the future.
"For me, what was especially impressive about the Jerah site was that the Tilhill Forestry team has re-planted a site that was steep hillside grazing land for many years and will now be creating a new habitat. However, just like forest managers in other parts of the world such as Indonesia, we heard how there have been challenges with engaging the local community and getting farming and forestry to sit comfortably beside each other. You can see that the staff are committed to gaining a good outcome and it would be great to be able to re-visit the site in 10 years’ time to see the progress."
Young added: "We have big concerns around the UK’s environmental footprint on global forestry and the fact is that if we don’t plant more forests ourselves now, and work to bring more UK woodlands into better management and contributing to production, this impact will increase as we will be forced to import even more timber."
Confor technical director Andrew Heald added: "Timber and forest products are globally traded commodities and the UK is the third biggest timber importer in the world and one of the least wooded countries in Europe. New mixed woodland developments like Jerah not only create rural employment and deliver a range of benefits such as carbon storage and reduced flood risk, but also improve the UK's forest footprint and dependence on imported timber particularly from the Boreal forests of Northern Europe."