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Put the right woodland in the right places for wildlife says RSPB Scotland

Last modified: 22 June 2012

Trees in mist at the RSPB Abernethy nature reserve

RSPB Scotland welcomes today’s launch of the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group report to Scotland’s rural affairs minister, as part of the debate on how to create more woodland that will benefit wildlife, people and the economy. The emphasis on integrating woodlands with other land uses such as farming, nature conservation and deer management is clearly the right approach.

Stuart Housden, Director RSPB Scotland explained: "The Scottish Government must ensure that it promotes the right kind of new woodland in the right places for wildlife. The report acknowledges past mistakes of the ‘blanket planting’ of monocultures of Sitka spruce that damaged wildlife and important habitats. We must focus on sustainable woodland expansion but in a manner that safeguards important open wildlife habitats, such as Scotland’s peat bogs, and the moorland and upland areas which are vital spaces for birds such as the golden eagle and declining wading birds like the curlew and snipe. Research demonstrates these birds decline following afforestation."

The report makes a number of welcome recommendations that will help woodland expansion whilst recognising the importance of other land uses. These include:

  • Setting firm targets for woodland expansion over the next ten years and reviewing longer term aspirations for more woodland towards the end of this period.
  • Piloting a new approach to land use planning for woodlands that will help to identify both the constraints and opportunities for new woodland planting, at a more local level, and thereby avoid any inappropriate planting.
  • Improving the current system of woodland grants and their administration to help land managers access funding for woodlands.
  • Calling for greater provision of information and advice to help land managers plant the right trees in the right places and integrate woodlands with other land uses.

Stuart Housden commented: "The report grapples with how we get more of the right trees in the right places and makes some sensible recommendations. RSPB Scotland urges the minister, to ensure that Scotland’s wildlife is properly cared for in the planning and grant aiding of new forestry plantations and native woodland. The wildlife of Scotland’s open moorlands, peat bogs and upland grasslands, need protection and restoration. We need policy that reaffirms this. These special places, and the people who manage them, require the Scottish Government’s continuing support and further encouragement to enhance their wildlife value.

"Creating new woodland must not be the only focus of the Scottish Government’s forestry policies. Better management of Scotland’s existing native woodland remnants, such as Caledonian pinewood and Western Atlantic oakwoods, is also a pressing need and will aid birds such as the capercaillie and pied flycatcher. We also would like to see a special effort devoted to righting past mistakes, such as restoring afforested peatlands or important dune systems when the opportunity arises, back to open ground thus helping meet Scotland’s ambitious biodiversity targets."


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