Coinciding with the closure of the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme and the introduction of the Scottish Rural Development Programme, 2007 and 2014 saw a decline in new croft woodlands planted. In response to this, the Croft Woodlands Project was established in 2015 to run for a 5 year period with a budget of £1.1m. The Project is a partnership lead by the Woodland Trust that aims to engage crofters and smallholders in the creation and management of woodlands on their holdings, thus delivering multiple benefits in terms of shelter, agricultural diversification, forest products, landscape and the environment.
Initially the partnership included Scottish Crofting Federation, Woodland Trust Scotland, Scottish Forestry (formerly Forestry Commission Scotland), Cogiach & Assynt Living Landscapes (CALL), Point & Sandwick Trust and the Woodland Crofts Partnership. Since its launch 2015, several other organisations have joined the partnership, including Shetland Amenity Trust and Orkney Woodland Project, both of which help to deliver the project in their respective islands; the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust and the Argyll Small Woodlands Co-op.
The Project offers free support to crofters, common grazings committees and smallholders within the crofting counties. Advisers carry out site assessments, offer technical advice and assist with access to funding. Advice is mainly focussed on new woodland planting but also includes management of existing woodland.
As well as assistance with the delivery of new planting and woodland management, a programme of training events and knowledge transfer has been delivered as part of the Project. This included the first Croft Woodlands Conference held in May 2019.
The conference, held over two days combined a series of talks and workshops on a variety of topics from agroforestry to mycorrhizal fungi and woodland crofts to croft diversification with field visits to look at a variety of crofting and woodland enterprises. The event was fully booked and saw the launch of the Highlands & Islands Woodland Handbook.