National pledge to plant five trees for every Scot in 2021

Around 25 million new trees will be planted in Scotland’s national forests – five for every person living in the country – over the next 12 months.

Forestry and Land Scotland has pledged to plant 25 million trees over the next year, helping  battle climate change and boosting the Scottish economy
Forestry and Land Scotland has pledged to plant 25 million trees over the next year, helping battle climate change and boosting the Scottish economy

The mass-planting, by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), will involve native species such as birch, oak, aspen and rowan as well as commercial conifers like Scots pine and Sitka spruce.

The move will help the country meet its climate change targets and bring in millions of pounds for the Scottish economy.

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Measures to protect saplings from hungry animals will also be implemented, including culling thousands of deer.

However, coronavirus restrictions means fewer deer will be killed than in normal times – 30,000 instead of 40,000 – so efforts such as maintenance of fencing will be stepped up.

“Effective management of the forests and land that we look after supports and sustains communities in rural Scotland and conserves and enhances our natural environment for future generations,” said Doug Knox, head of Technical Services Group for FLS.

“Our ambitious tree-planting programmes will create new conifer and broadleaved forests that will act as the carbon sinks of the future, benefittng the climate emergency effort, biodiversity and Scotland’s economy.

“But realising these benefits involves protecting those forests and giving them their best chance of reaching maturity, and part of that involves managing deer numbers.

“It is a constant challenge for all land managers but efforts to control deer numbers are vital to protect sensitive environments, commercial forestry and agricultural crops and to mitigate climate change.”

Young and newly planted trees are particularly at risk of damage from animals in their first six years of growth.

Around 150 million specimens on forestry land require protection at any one time to ensure they can continue growing to reach maturity.

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FLS will also cut down around nine million trees this year, generating around £410 million for the Scottish economy.

The felled timber will be used to create products such as timber frames for housing and wooden pallets, while simultaneously locking up carbon.

Harvested wood is also used in the manufacture of packaging and medical supplies such as face masks, and as renewable biomass fuel.

Mr Knox added: “We constantly monitor deer populations across the land that we manage to ensure that we can meet our wider objectives and maintain a diverse and thriving forest environment.

“That environment will always include deer but at population levels the land can comfortably sustain, without suffering damage.”

The pandemic has also affected the venison market, reducing demand and lowering prices.

Estimates suggest this year’s cull will generate £1 million for the Scottish public purse.

Scotland missed its most recent annual planting target, achieving coverage of 10,860 hectares in the 12 months up to March 2020 – short of the 12,000-hectare aim.

Coronavirus lockdown restrictions and bad weather hampering planting work were blamed for the overall shortfall.

Indigenous species made up around 42 per cent of all the new woodlands created in Scotland during the same period, while more than 80 per cent of all new trees in the UK were planted north of the border.

Trees cover 18.8 per cent of Scotland’s total land mass, but the Scottish Government’s forestry strategy plans to increase this to 21 per cent by 2032.

Future targets aim for 18,000 hectares to be planted each year from 2024.

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