SCOTTISH forestry creation is now at its highest level in 17 years, the Rural Economy Secretary told a conference in Inverness yesterday.
Fergus Ewing said 300 new community projects were approved in the last year alone with a further 800 Forestry Grant Scheme contracts awarded.
And he hailed an increase in the project’s budget from £40m to £46m as key.
Speaking at the Royal Scottish Forestry Society meeting in Inverness on Monday, Mr Ewing said with an increase of funding resulting in more woodland creation, buoyant timber prices and a strong demand for wood, conditions for growth had never been better in the forestry sector.
He added: “Our overall ambition is the continued growth of the industry, increasing the already substantial contribution that forestry makes to Scotland’s economy, environment and people.
“Getting the right trees in the right place is at the heart of forestry growth and it is very encouraging to see woodland creation activity on the increase.
“During 2017, more than 800 Forestry Grant Scheme contracts were awarded, including 300 woodland creation projects.
“We have already approved 9,000 ha of private sector schemes for planting next year (18/19) and Forest Enterprise Scotland is expecting to create around 650ha on the National Forest Estate. We are also assessing a further 2,500ha of schemes that have been submitted by private sector applicants.
“Taking all this together, we are now seeing the highest level of woodland creation activity since 2001.”
And he praised those working for the industry.
He said: ”This is a transformation from where we were just a few years ago – one which this government has invested significantly in making happen.
“I’m especially pleased to see the National Forest Estate playing a key role and continuing with new planting, felling and generating income.
“I welcome the role that RSFS members play in contributing to this growth and success.”
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IMAGE CREDITS: Forestry Commission Scotland