3 Oct 2023

New UK Forestry Standard to promote sustainable forestry

A new edition of the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS), agreed by all four countries, has been published today following a comprehensive review process.

The UKFS is the technical standard for forestry across the UK, which provides the foundations for sustainable forest management.

The Standard has been updated to reflect improvements in scientific knowledge, developments in international approaches to forestry, new or amended legislation, and new information about best forestry practice.

A 12 month transition period is in place to allow guidance to be updated, users to become familiar with the new edition, and draft woodland plans to be finalised.

To support a smooth transition, work will continue with the sector to minimise disruption to businesses, particularly on future plant supply and the range of alternative productive species.

Importantly, the new edition aims to make forests more resilient to a changing climate and the increased risk of pests and diseases so they can continue to deliver multiple benefits.

Commenting on the new UKFS,

Rural Affairs Secretary at the Scottish Government, Mairi Gougeon, said:

“Scotland has ambitious plans to expand its forests to tackle the twin crises of climate change and nature loss.

“We need to drive this expansion in a careful and considered way, ensuring our forests are sustainable and that the right trees are in the right place. The UK Forestry Standard underpins all this important work and will be vital when creating plans for new forests.

“The new UKFS has been produced with the help of many stakeholders and experts from Scotland and the rest of the UK. I would like to thank them all for their important contributions.”

Julie James, the Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change said:

“I am pleased that the Welsh Government has been involved in renewing the UK Forestry Standard. The new standard will help ensure that our vitally important forests will be managed in a way that supports our ambitions around climate change and nature. This will include improved sustainability, resilience and biodiversity in forests that are delivered to the UKFS.”

A Northern Ireland Forest Service spokesperson welcomed this new, updated, and forward-looking 5th revision to the UK Forestry Standard saying:

“NI Forest Service, an Executive Agency of the Department of Agricultural, Environment and Rural Affairs, delivers the forestry responsibilities on behalf of the Department. The revised standard will guide forestry development and the management and protection of forests with increased resilience in NI.”

Forestry Commission Chief Executive, Richard Stanford said:

“The UK Forestry Standard is a vital resource – supporting foresters with the tools needed to manage our forests sustainably.  Our woods and forests must remain resilient, healthy and vibrant to tackle climate change, providing habitats, timber and a range of wider environmental benefits.

“Today’s refresh will continue to support a coordinated, sustainable approach to forestry across our four nations to create forests and woodlands that are resilient to climate change and pests and diseases to help meet net zero ambitions.”

Industry experts and a number of organisations input into the review process, as well as a wide range of independent specialists, leading researchers, and the four forestry authorities across the UK.

The new (5th) edition of the UKFS is available on the Forest Research website and provides forest managers best practice guidance to ensure sustainable forest management principles are carried out.

Notes to news editors

1. The 5th edition will be applied after 1st October 2024. After that date, updated Good Forestry Practice Requirements will be applied to existing forest plans at the time of renewal. Until then, the 4th edition (2017) should be used (UK Forestry Standard). 

2. The UKFS has been developed specifically for forestry in the UK and is based on applying internationally agreed criteria which support the delivery of sustainable forest management. The UKFS recognises the need to balance environmental, economic and social objectives. 

3. The new edition was overseen by a Project Board made up of senior officials from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and co-ordinated by Scottish Forestry. Its content was co-produced by the four countries, underlining that it is the four UK governments’ approach to sustainable forestry.