Lochaber and islands on track to hit tree-planting targets

NO F11 FCS Dunning Glen Seeding G003
NO F11 FCS Dunning Glen Seeding G003

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News that Lochaber and the rest of Scotland is on track to meet its yearly tree planting targets has been hailed as a ‘remarkable achievement’ by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.

Despite the challenges of Covid, Scottish Forestry staff have approved applications for more than 13,000 hectares of new woodland this year.

It is now down to foresters, farmers and land managers to get their projects planted this month and help make this a record year for tree planting in Scotland.

The yearly planting targets were increased to 12,000 hectares last year and will rise to 18,000 hectares in 2024/25.

Mr Ewing said this was a remarkable achievement by everyone concerned. He added: ‘I would like to pay tribute to everyone working in the sector – public and private – who are working hard to deliver our planting targets.

‘In a year of unprecedented adversity with Covid, Brexit and heavy, persistent snow at the beginning of this year, this is such positive news.

‘And this is not all down to the large forestry companies. We have had significant interest from smaller woodland owners, farmers and crofters who are planting almost 200 of the 320 woodland creation schemes we are funding this year.

‘There are 13,000 hectares of projects approved this financial year and more than 6,000 hectares for next year already approved. It’s great news that we are on track to deliver on our planting target.’

With just three months left until outturn against the yearly target is announced, woodland owners across Scotland are also working hard to complete projects and claim by the March 31 2021 deadline.

In recognition of the difficulties caused by this winter’s snow, as well as Covid,  Scottish Forestry will be offering increased flexibility to allow claimants to maximise planting by March 31.

Forestry Grant Scheme claims will still need to be submitted to Scottish Forestry by the end of March, but a further period of two months until the end of May is being allowed for supporting documents and evidence to be submitted.

This will allow projects to continue planting up until the end of March and two more  months to complete site surveys, mapping and prepare the documents needed to support their claims.

The increase in tree planting will help in the global fight against climate change and aid Scotland’s green recovery.

The forestry sector supports around 25,000 jobs in Scotland and generates £1 billion to the economy each year.

Scottish Forestry was due to issue a Forestry Grant Scheme update this week providing more details on the arrangements for flexibility which will cover all  Forestry Grant Scheme 2020 claims.

Speaking to the Lochaber Times, a Scottish Forestry spokesman added: ‘The Highlands and Islands, including Lochaber, has a rich history in forestry. This region is expected to have planted more than 20 per cent of the national annual tree planting target which is welcome.

‘Increasing our planting levels is very important, not only for the environment, but it supports many jobs, importantly in rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands.

‘We assist in tree planting projects large and small. For example, we have supported the large native woodland tree planting project at Dunvegan on Skye.

‘On the other end of the scale, we have supported around 100 crofters get trees into the ground. Both are very important.’

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