Unnatural forest

CORRESPONDENTS such as K Taylor (Letters, 29 March) misunderstand the views of Dave Morris of the Ramblers’ Association, and others.

We are all striving to expand the remnants of our old Caledonian pine woods (OCPs) and stay true to conservation and forestry policies in place for decades, trying to perpetuate “natural” (not unsullied) forest, to safeguard the integrity of Scotland’s few ancient forest remnants, which for thousands of years have ­regenerated themselves and ­escaped unnatural planting.

We do not have to wait. Young trees are already abundant in and around many of our ancient pine woods, such as those in the northern Cairngorms. Surveys there show more than 2,000 hectares of expansion in the past 25 years in a total resource of 8,500 hectares. These remnants are not threatened, geriatric, in decline or in need of urgent ­action, as some claim. This is in addition to more than 13,000 hectares of planted native Scots pine in Strathspey alone.

Trees for Life is welcome to plant native species in many parts of Scotland, but must respect our ancient pine woods, stop planting near them (as promised in its action plan), and join others in helping to reduce pressure from red deer grazing. It needs to stop pretending it is ­recreating the old Caledonian forest, misleading the public into giving money for such projects which actually damage the ancient pine woods.

The natural evolution, heritage and diversity of the few remnants is now under threat from planting. There seems to be a fear of natural evolution in some quarters, yet this is the only way to protect and perpetuate the OCPs. Their value to the nation requires continued protection from interference and degradation by artificial planting.


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Basil Dunlop