Shaun Hunter, Assistant Woodland Officer, South Scotland Conservancy (Dumfries) “From helping a farmer plant a shelter belt, to keeping a firewood salesman stocked for the winter, trees are a huge part of our community, lifestyle and economy. I play a role in how this all fits together, from meeting with people on the ground to visiting the beautiful forests and woodlands throughout southern Scotland. And more importantly, I take a role in protecting these forests for future generations, to maintain habitat for the wildlife and encourage bio-diversity.”
What does your role involve?
Woodland Officers promote and monitor legal, good-practice in forestry. An Assistant Woodland Officer helps them to accomplish that by being an extra set of eyes, ears and hands by: balancing the felling of timber to ensure a steady supply to the mills, while ensuring wildlife and habitat is protected, and carbon locking is not reduced; ensuring that new woodland creation is positive for the natural environment, and the surrounding neighbourhoods, promoting diversity in species while allowing both big and small landholdings to profit in the timber industry; monitoring cases of unregistered felling, to investigate and provide evidence in cases that are considered illegal; and taking part in promoting good tree health practices, buffering vulnerable crops and monitoring new and existing pests and diseases, limiting the spread and encouraging land holders to implement good bio-security.
What is a typical day like for you?
Every day is different, which personally, is a perk of the job. A typical day could be reviewing a Felling Permission application in the morning, where people apply to fell trees for a variety of reasons, most usually timber, but also for restructuring or to remove foreign species from a native woodland. Here, I would check the hectarage, the species, the volume of timber, age of crop etc. against existing information we have on record and against aerial photographs to ensure that it looks reasonably correct. If not, I go back to the agent/land-owner and discuss the situation until we can get a clearer picture. While I’m waiting for a reply, I will answer solicitor enquires, who are requesting information about the land their client owns, feeding back information on any grants, contracts or environmental restrictions present. Finally, in the afternoon, I will escape the office. Either, to go inspect a grant claim, where we visit new woodland creations, to insure they have planted what was agreed, to a standard we had specified in a contract. Or alternatively, I go to the site of the previously mentioned felling permission, so we can check on the ground, existing bio-diversity, tonnage of timber and any of the other many pieces of information we require to approve a licence.
Tell us about a highlight working for SF.
I have only been with Scottish Forestry a short amount of time. However, the shear amount of information I have absorbed could be overwhelming, but thanks to a friendly and supporting team of colleagues I have been able to quickly become a productive member of the team. I learn something new daily and expect to keep doing so for many more months to come, but I appreciate the challenge and will keep striving. I am using the information learned here to help pursue a HNC in forestry, and it is gratifying to be able to help members of the public who struggle to get the most out of their land, be able to accomplish their aspirations and benefit the environment at the same time.