27 Jun 2023

Action to strengthen community engagement in forestry

Scottish Forestry has published “refreshed” guidance to help communities get more engaged with new forestry schemes that are proposed in their areas.

The purpose of the guidance is to provide greater clarity around the existing engagement and consultation processes during the development and approval of woodland creation schemes, felling permission applications and management plans.

The guidance is part of the new package of measures announced recently which will help get woodland creation levels back on track in Scotland.

It’s also a first step towards greater community engagement in forestry and will complement other actions, such as those led by Confor to develop good practice community engagement guidance and training for forestry professionals.

Scottish Forestry is also working with South of Scotland Enterprise and the Community Woodlands Association to explore opportunities for forestry to deliver more community benefits.

Welcoming the guidance, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:

“Increasing woodland-cover is essential to our net zero ambition, as well as for our efforts to reverse biodiversity loss.

“However, we must ensure that new woodland is created in a sustainable, fair and just way, that benefits everybody.

“We have listened carefully to communities who wish to get more involved in new forestry proposals, but are sometimes unsure how the process works and what they can expect when working with the sector.  The refreshed guidance will make this clearer and help equip communities to engage more meaningfully.

“Our work in this area is also continuing with the recent public consultation on future forestry grant support. A key element of the consultation was to seek views on how opportunities for community engagement in forestry can be further enhanced and how future grant support can enable communities to realise greater benefits from woodland and support more opportunities for community wealth building.”  

The document outlines why engagement and consultation is important, the processes involved in the development and approval of forestry plans and proposals, roles and responsibilities, how to use the public registers and how complex cases are resolved.

Separate to the new guidance,  Forestry and Land Scotland, which manages the national forests and land, has been inviting feedback from people across Scotland on how to grow and strengthen its work with communities. They intend to announce their community engagement plans in the near future.