Minutes of the Highland and Islands Forestry Forum meeting, 6 December 2012

Members Present

Will Boyd Wallis
John McGlade
Bob Stubbs
Mike Thompson
Sheila Nairn
Adhair McIvor
Becky Shaw
Steve North
Steve Conolly
Neil Sutherland
George Hamilton
Hector Munro
John Henderson
Stuart Fraser
Malcolm Wield
John Risby
Evelyn Murray
Gail Rogerson
Richard Wallace
Donald MacLeod
Graeme Prest

Apologies

Margaret Davidson
Michael Foxley
Amanda Bryan
Eleanor Garty
Thomas MacDonell
Mike Girvan
Richard Howe

Introduction and Apologies - Bob Stubbs

Bob welcomed the group and in particular our new members Hector Munro and John Henderson.

SRDP update – John Risby

John advised that 8 working groups had been set up to look at the next round of SRPD.
He mentioned that for forestry grants it will be a process of evolution rather than revolution. Consultation to be by April 2013 then submitted to Europe. Proposed changes to forestry grants were discussed-see presentation below

Presentation on Norway field trip – Gail Rogerson, Donald Macleod, Richard Wallace and Steve North 30 May to 1 June 2012

The main focus of this presentation was to report on the similarities and differences in woodland expansion that has taken place around the Songli area in Norway, and with Highland. The group visited, met with and heard from private and state owned or managed woodlands.

The most significant experiences were the complete lack of fences (especially deer) in the landscape and the lush undergrowth in woodlands. Ownership is on a much smaller scale than Scotland. There are no large estates as we know them.

The recent woodland expansion in Norway took place over the last 100-200 years when many hill farms were abandoned and people moved to the coast and larger towns and cities for work. Farm woodlands are well integrated and worked on similar shortwood production systems as here. Local or Community Councils, the Commune are well involved in the production of Forest Plans.

The state owned nature reserve at Songli had many similarities to such as Glen Affric or Glen Feshie. While Urvatnet reminded us of Rothiemurchus. One site visited on the coast at a place called Seterneset was very similar to our west coast around the Summer Isles. Here pine and birch were regenerating very close to the shore and apparently completely salt exposure hardy.

The group were trying to ascertain why this was, possibly genetic differences? It was suggested that more work could be done here by FR to see if there is anything further we can learn. A further follow up visit might be a possibility.

Presentation on Dothistroma – Stuart Fraser

Stuart confirmed initially that tests had revealed that Dothistroma has recently been found in Norway. He mentioned that copper based fungicides have been used in other countries to tackle this but have not been licensed in the UK. He confirmed that the private sector is currently collating reports on sites damaged by the disease.

His work will look at resistance amongst provenances of LP and SP.
There was discussion on monocultures and mixed forests and the limited species you can plant on some sites. Bob Stubbs mentioned the relevance of genetic variations of this disease.

Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG) Update – John Risby and Steve Conolly.

Steve and John reported back on the meeting of Forum Chairs and Conservators held at Birnam the previous day. Key points were forum membership to include agricultural expertise, the development of new guidance, sub-regional planning for woodland creation and the establishment of reference groups to advise FES.

As an action from the WEAG report guidance is being produced on woodland creation on agricultural land. A working group had been established to develop this guidance and posed the following questions at the Brinam meeting.

1. What should applicants be expected to demonstrate in terms of input?
2. Whose views are important in scoping?
3. How can we keep any assessment objective?
4. How can we ensure that mitigating agri impacts does not stop viable forestry scheme?

RPID to be involved in this process with guidance expected by end March 13..

The forum recognised the importance of this guidance to the work of the Conservancy and Forest Districts and requested a way of inputing to it.

Steve North noted there was also a group to deal with planting within designated sites. It was confirmed that SNH are leading a group on designated sites and deer interaction and that JR has been asked to sit in on.

Action - JR to seek views from FCS National Office on how forum best inputs to these groups
Action –JR to discuss with Anne Rae – RPID

WBW – mentioned that the interpretation of the word agriculture needs to be more clearly defined. Need objective assessment of each planting site. Need to consider regional differences.

FES has temporarily stopped any further farm purchases until this guidance is in place, and is seeking to establish reference groups to advise on the 31 farmland sites they have purchased but have not completed planning for. In H&I we have one such farm near Fort William. The forum chair was to be asked to suggest members for the reference group.
The forum had reservations about becoming involved in case work and suggested that the Fort William site be visited as part of the next forum meeting.

Action – BS to discuss further with FCS National Office.
Action - JR to speak to FDM about a visit to Lochaber for the March meeting.

On sub-regional planning for woodland creation it was reported that CNPA had done some work and also FCS/SNH and the HC had begun work looking at Caithness and Sutherland (as per presentation to forum meeting last year). It was hoped to include the latter in the planned update of the Highland Forest and Woodland Strategy. GH advised date for completing strategy update is late 2014.

Action - JR/GH to produce a timetable for forum members to consult/advise on this over next two years.

Presentation on Forestry Strategy – Richard Howe was unable to attend.

SFS Implementation Plan

The draft plan for 2013-15 was tabled and discussed
Action – MW to collate any forum comments by end of year.

Evelyn Murray
Secretary to Highland and Islands Forestry Forum
11 December 2012