Tree planting

Forestry and Land Scotland sets its sights high for 2021

27th January 2021

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) will this year plant five new trees for every person living in Scotland.

The 25 million new trees to be planted by FLS in 2021/22, will help to create the forests of the future and contribute to Scotland’s climate change targets.

The massive tree planting effort will include native species such as birch, oak, aspen, rowan and commercial conifers such as Scots pine and Sitka spruce.

Tree planting will be supplemented by an extensive effort to protect the trees from browsing damage from deer. 

For FLS this year, that will involve maintaining 2,500 kilometers of deer fencing – enough to stretch from Edinburgh to Berlin and back – and culling 30,000 deer, a reduced figure due to the impact of COVID-19.

Doug Knox, FLS Head of Technical Services Group said, “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.

“Our ambitious tree planting programmes will create new conifer and broadleaved forests that will act as the carbon sinks of the future, benefitting 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.”

For their first six years of growth newly planted and young trees are extremely vulnerable to browsing damage from deer, and to a lesser extent, sheep and goats. 

At any one time FLS is working to  protect around 150 million trees until they are big enough that their leading branches can’t be browsed and can then go on to reach maturity.

In 2021 FLS will harvest around nine million trees generating £410m in gross value added for the Scottish economy and locking carbon emissions away in practical and in-demand products such as timber frames for housing and wooden pallets. Harvested timber is also used in the manufacture of packaging, face masks and as biomass fuel used in many hospital heating systems.

Doug 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 impact of COVID-19 restrictions on work practices has seen a dip in culling levels in 2021, which means that more work will need to be done to protect young trees in the coming years.

The pandemic has also affected the venison market, so this years’ reduced FLS cull will only generate approximately £1 million for the public purse in Scotland, while demand in both the UK and overseas, recovers post-Covid.

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