An overwhelming majority of people in Scotland want forestry policy to prioritise native woodlands, according to a new opinion poll.
The Survation poll, commissioned by Scottish Environment LINK, found that 8 in 10 members of the public believe that the focus should be on native woodlands while only 1 in 10 believed that policy should prioritise the non-native species often grown commercially.
The findings come shortly after the Scottish Government announced a planned refresh of the Forestry Grant Scheme, with a consultation expected early next year.
Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said that the refreshed scheme would support targets to expand forests, while tackling nature loss and climate change.
Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of environmental charities, is calling for the Forestry Grant Scheme to do more to support biodiversity in our woodlands and provide more benefits to communities.
The coalition says that the refreshed scheme should:
· Improve the health of our most valuable native woodlands
· Deliver a higher proportion of new native woodlands
· Increase support for natural regeneration of woodlands as a key tool to restore nature to our landscapes
Alan McDonnell, Conservation Manager at Trees for Life and Convener of LINK’s Woodlands Group, said:
“Scotland’s woodlands are an incredibly important part of our landscapes and natural environment, and have a key role in tackling the twin crises of climate change and nature loss.
“Targets to plant more trees and regenerate more native woodland are key to this and should help us to truly deliver the right trees in the right places.
“Commercial forestry has an important part to play, but there is little biodiversity benefit in creating uniform forests dominated by a few species grown commercially and generally clear felled at harvesting time.
“We need a more thoughtful approach to landscape change that reflects both the climate and nature emergencies, as well as the needs of local communities.”
Arina Russell, Policy and Advocacy Manager at Woodland Trust Scotland, said:
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to refresh the Forestry Grant Scheme and do so by consulting the public, which is a huge opportunity for public funding to tackle nature loss.
“The public overwhelmingly want policy and funding support to focus on native woodlands for nature and people. The Scottish Government can make that happen.
“The Forestry Grant Scheme should reverse the decline in our native woodlands, and should offer increased support natural regeneration where we can let nature do the work for us. All this is possible while also supporting a thriving and sustainable commercial forestry sector.
“This approach would carry public support, capture carbon long-term, and be hugely beneficial for nature.”
Refresh of Forestry Grant Scheme planned
The Scottish Government has set targets to plant more trees to help tackle climate change. On the right soils and with sensitive techniques, commercial forestry usually grows quicker and involves growing non-native tree species in an area. However, growing native species in woodlands has a greater biodiversity benefit and also reduces atmospheric carbon, albeit more slowly. Which of the following is closest to your view?
There should be a focus on growing native woodlands across Scotland’s landscapes, even if it takes time to grow them (80%)
There should be a focus on growing non-native woodlands across Scotland’s landscape, even if it reduces the biodiversity of these areas (10%)
Don’t know (10%)
Survation (31st Oct – 6th Nov). Sample size 1033.