Minutes of the Highland and Islands Forestry Forum meeting, 15 March 2012

Members Present

Bob Stubbs – Chair
John Risby- Highland Conservancy
Malcolm Wield – Highland Conservancy
Michael Cresswell- Highland Conservancy
Evelyn Murray- Highland Conservancy
Tim Cockerill- North Highland FD
David Jardine – Inverness, Ross and Skye FD
Will Boyd Wallis - CNPA
Dr David Hetherington- CNPA
Robert Patton- HC
Steve North- SNH
Steve Conolly – Cawdor Forestry
Dr Michael Foxley- HC
Neil Sutherland - MAKAR
Adhair McIvor SGRPID
Mike Thompson – Munro Harvesting
John McGlade –McGlade Forestry
Sheila Nairn – crofter Ardnamurchan
Eleanor Garty – Woodlands Trust
Amanda Bryan – Rural Development Consultant
Becky Shaw – Rural Development Consultant

Apologies

Diane Macpherson
Anne Rae
Margaret Davidson

Minutes of last meeting agreed.

General Update

Chair had submitted letter to WEAG on behalf of the forum.

Tim Cockerill updated on Dothistroma needle blight (DNB) in North Highland FD. Every block has signs of the disease. Trying to salvage crops –harvesting programme going from 220000m3 per year to 3 to 400 000 next year. Restocking species options look limited. Soil needs fertilised, as it will not sustain conifers perhaps plant birch and willow to help ameliorate soils.

John - advised of growing concern of planting SP close to Caledonian Pine woods.

David Jardine – advised that Dothistroma not as advanced in Inverness Ross and Skye Forest District, this may be due to climatic differences. He also mentioned that the lack of roads/infrastructure is a problem in dealing with this in getting infected timber out. He recommended taking Lodgepole out as a priority.

Bob Stubbs advised that the Scottish Forestry Trust was funding an Aberdeen University student to look at any differences in resistance to DNB amongst pine provenances. He would seek an update for forum on this work.

Action point –Bob to contact Steve Woodward of Aberdeen University to check availability for next forum meeting.

SRDP next programme – John Risby

John presented the FCS paper, which had been issued, to the customer reps group. John highlighted the 3 big suggested changes:

  1. Restocking where the preferred approach was to move to capital payments for replanting;
  2. Woodland creation where the preferred option was to revisit the productive conifer model costs and
  3. Introduce 3 native woodland models and to include forest recreation and other activities within the forestry budget and ongoing approvals process.

The Scottish Government had now established a forestry working group and CONFOR sit on this group. This was very much a work in progress.

Action point – John to give forum regular updates. Forum members should feed in any comments to John or via Confor.

SFS Implementation Plan 2012-13 John Risby

John presented his paper and gave an overview.

Debate centred on Dothistroma and tree health. Expert surveyors in this area are in short supply.

Tim Cockerill advised that Forest Research do run plant health days but do we need more of these?

David Jardine said planning is key here as to identifying the stage the disease is at and private sector should try and get organised to carry out that work in mid to late summer. Forest Districts are now working on amalgamating scoring systems. He also advised that lots of things make trees sick so it’s easy to get false positives if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Steve North expressed a view that there is potential for another model in SRDP to help deal with diseases. Again roads were mentioned in connection with the manageability of sites.

Forum members suggested a need to focus on increased communications specifically with private owners and managers in mind. The following suggestions were made:

  • Provide regular bulletin updates-can this be done via Path news?
  • Make a short film for YouTube
  • Organise a DNB summit for key owners and managers
  • Look at how to protect key native woods (pinewoods)

CNPA could offer funding to train surveyors
Communicate with wider public re timber transport etc.

Action point – JR to discuss forum suggestions with FCS Tree Health lead Hugh Clayden and invite him to next forum meeting. JR to revisit tree health priority in draft SFS plan

West Coast Sea Accessible Productive Planting Ground – Malcolm Wield and Mike Cresswell

Mike and Malcolm gave their presentation based on a desk based GIS assessment and rapid ground inspection. They had found over 120,000 ha of potentially plantable ground within 3km of the coastline between Dundonnel and Gairloch; including Skye.

There was significant scope for integrated woodland and agriculture on croft land. Productive potential was indicated by some existing mixed woodlands containing a diverse range of good quality conifer species.

There was evidence of oak, beech and sycamore on the more sheltered, fertile sites and in riparian zones.

The community at Laide was managing a more extensive, potentially productive conifer woodland. In addition to conventional production, there is potential for a wide range of value added timber products from crafts to woodfuel and locally processed sawnwood.

Most if not all established woodlands seemed to be enhancing biodiversity and providing tangible social benefits. The woodland potential closely reflected the key themes of the Highland Forest and Woodland Strategy.

No other sifting filters e.g. financial or environmental had been used to define this potential further.

Neil Sutherland and Steve Connolly were positive in that we need to focus on the diverse benefits and clear potential to produce a range of good timber products. Sheila Nairn said that some crofters were receptive to diversifying their land and Amanda Bryan thought that it would be helpful to encourage communities to develop wood production.

David Jardine reminded the forum that beaches, water depths, marine life etc. would be critical to the success of these sites if future extraction by sea was planned. Gairloch was identified as already having a deep-water pier. New woodlands at any scale would be linked into SRDP.

Action – Amanda Bryan suggested a pilot perhaps to get smaller communities involved, thinking about how to minimise transport costs to encourage landowners to plant and sitting down with landowners to remind them that forestry is a viable option for land.

Caithness and Sutherland Woodland Expansion – John Risby

John described how SNH, FCS and The Highland Council are developing a pilot approach to support woodland expansion in Caithness and Sutherland, testing the idea of dividing the wider area into smaller planning units based on the landscape character types to help resolve issues about “where, what and how much” woodland expansion.

Similar work also being done in Cairngorms National Park and Dumfries and Galloway.

He asked the forum for views on the 6 zones, draft prescriptions and usefulness of the work to applicants.

  • Neil Sutherland – suggested agri and forestry sectors need to be targeted and reminded of relevance to one another and
  • Robert Patton- Highland Council looking to review the 2006 strategy, interim review is now becoming a full review. Public consultation will be key to the strategy although he was unsure of the resource commitment necessary to cover sub-regional work.

Michael Foxley asked about peat depth. John Risby advised FCS policy to avoid planting on peat greater than 50cm as not good from a carbon balance point of view.

Action – comments/ thoughts are sought from forum members.

Presentations/Visits

CNPA Wildcat – presentation
Introduction to MAKAR - presentation

Thanks to Dr David Hetherington of CNPA for his presentation on wildcats and to Neil Sutherland for hosting a visit to MAKAR to see the latest developments in the business.

Evelyn Murray
Secretary - Highland and Islands Forestry Forum
10 April 2012

Emailed to members on 17th April 2012.