Root and branch

How very sad as yet another part of our precious and very limited natural heritage is lost (your report, 14 April).

To short-cut nature, the RSPB is planting nearly 100,000 trees in the least disturbed section of the Abernethy Old Caledonian Pinewood (OCP – definition: descended from one generation to another by natural means).

It is indulging in a practice it previously condemned instead of allowing nature to evolve, yet it admits its own surveys show the forest is expanding naturally, with no need for intervention except grazing control.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

There is ample regeneration, even of broad-leaved species which are inhibited by adverse soil conditions and browsing.

Such drastic intervention is claimed as being necessary to connect the Abernethy and Glenmore OCPs, but they are 
already joined through the 
magnificent Pass of Ryvoan. It is sheer impatience.

Shame on the statutory authorities, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, and Cairngorms National Park Authority for not objecting to this proposal, despite it being contrary to their stated policies on the primacy of nature in such direct descendants of the ancient boreal forest.

If a conservation body such as RSPB cannot respect natural 
evolution and resist intervention in a designated national 
nature reserve, what hope is there for the rest of our ancient forest heritage?

This is a national scandal. One cannot restore a natural forest by unnatural intervention.

Basil Dunlop


YOU report that the RSPB plans to plant 100,000 broadleaved trees at Abernethy Caledonian pinewood. This is vandalism to a natural treasure.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) are statutory guardians of Caledonian woods. Regulations stipulate natural regeneration, which has continued for millennia.

Expensive human interference by collecting and growing seeds involves unnatural selection, so that planted trees differ from original natural populations.

The RSPB asserts that planting is needed because broadleaved trees are scarce, and Carol Evans of Woodland Trust Scotland (Letters, 15 April) says they are as important as pine in Caledon-ian pinewood. Such claims belie profound ignorance of Caledonian woods and their north
European counterparts.

These species are scarce because the less acidic soils that favour them are scarce. We should respect nature, not think arrogantly that we know better.

Dr David Hetherington, senior ecologist of Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), publicly promoted the planting and donations for it, and is a director of Trees for Life – another body that plants at Caledonian pinewood and seeks donations for this.

As an adviser to CNPA, which approved RSPB plans, he should have considered this a conflict of

SNH consent to RSPB planting involved local staff who lacked recognised pinewood expertise and did not consult SNH’s senior scientists.

By consenting, I believe Forestry Commission Scotland also broke the regulations. SNH and FCS knew this last autumn but
divulged nothing publicly.

SNH, FCS and CNPA neglected their duty. This requires public inquiry; withdrawal of consent to plant; and removal of trees planted so far.