BrewDog's million tree Lost Forest sees half of planted saplings now dead

The trees have been lost at the Lost Forest on the Kinrara estate, west of Aviemore The trees have been lost at the Lost Forest on the Kinrara estate, west of Aviemore
The trees have been lost at the Lost Forest on the Kinrara estate, west of Aviemore

BrewDog has admitted half of the saplings planted for their million tree Lost Forest died in the first year.

The Scottish Government agency Scottish Forestry has paid the beer company £690,986 to date for the tree planting project on Kinrara Estate, near Aviemore.

The beer giant set out to plant about one million trees after purchasing the estate in 2020, with claims it will help remove twice as much carbon from the environment as it emits, making the company carbon neutral.

But in a statement this week, BrewDog co-founder James Watt said last summer’s “extreme conditions resulted in a higher-than-expected failure rate, particularly Scots pine”, which is one of the 11 species planted on the estate.

Scottish Forestry said the tree mortality was most likely caused by the “very dry conditions last Spring when the trees were put in the ground.”

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request obtained by campaigner Nick Kempe found there was a 50 to 56 per cent estimate for Scots pine mortality on the estate by September last year. This is estimated to be about 92,456 trees. The data showed some 42,712 oak and other broadleaves had also died by the same month.

The funds had been given as part of phase one of the planting project, and for fences to keep deer out.

A second FOI, which has been published on Mr Kempe’s Parkwatch Scotland blog, found in three out of the five small plots of birch planting that were sampled “about half were dead”. If that was replicated across the entire site, that would mean 60,000 of BrewDog’s birch trees have died.

The figures also revealed in four out of the five birch plots “many of the planted trees had been browsed” - grazed on by an animal.

In some of the plots sampled, data showed there was evidence of “lots of” birch and Scots pine natural regeneration around the dead trees.

Mr Kempe said this highlighted “the failures of the Scottish Forestry Grant system” and claimed there were signs of “significant natural regeneration” across the site before it was fenced for new planting.

Scottish Forestry said it would continue to monitor the site to ensure the forestry grant conditions were met.

A spokesperson for the agency said: “As regulator for forestry in Scotland, we have carried out an inspection last year to the Lost Forest project on the Kinrara Estate.  Our inspectors found pockets of high mortality of trees that were planted and we believe the most likely cause of this was the very dry conditions last spring when the trees were put in the ground.

“The public funds allocated to the woodland creation project are fully protected. We will expect the applicant [Lost Forest] to make good through replacement planting at their own cost to ensure that the agreed amount of woodland creation, and at the correct tree density, takes place.  If we found that this was not the case, then we can reclaim the grant.”

BrewDog said it has since replanted 50,000 of the baby trees that did not survive the winter.

In 2020, the beer giant bought Kinrara for reportedly £8.8m, according to Land Registry records, pledging to plant about one million trees. At the time, Mr Watt claimed the Lost Forest project would be “one of the largest reforestation and peatland restoration projects the UK has ever seen”.



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