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Policy Roundup – December 2023

Our monthly policy and research blog updates you on the latest work at the Institute and how you can get involved.

Institute news

Emerging Leader Programme

A webinar was held on 5 December, showcasing the final presentations of the Emerging Leaders from the Clore Leadership Development Programme. Three groups, as voted for by peers, presented their ‘innovation challenges’ based around identified sector needs, including the skills crisis in the session chaired by our Executive Director, Louise Simpson. The Emerging Leaders programme was funded by the Trees Call to Action fund, Scottish Forestry and the Welsh Government.

UK Policy Conference & National Wood Strategy for England

Shona Smyth MICFor, Senior Technical Officer, attended the Confor UK Policy Conference on 7 December, “Green Growth: Why Wood is the Missing Low-Carbon Link”, at the QEII Centre in London. The conference explored the potential for timber within the UK’s economy and environment, and how we can overcome barriers to delivery. Sponsored by Gresham House, Scottish Forestry and Tilhill, the day featured debate around the role of carbon in achieving net zero, as well as a focus on research into the use of hardwoods in construction and how we can promote home grown timber.

The conference also saw the launch of the National Wood Strategy for England, which has been recognised by the Institute and its membership as a much-needed call to action for Government. While we recognise the significance of the proposed path towards a sustainable forest and timber industry in England, we must also acknowledge the role that all woodland types have in meeting our targets.  The Institute welcomes the emphasis on productive woodlands in all forms and recognises the role of broadleaves in meeting our current and future timber demands. It is vital that we reduce our need to offshore and become more self-sufficient with our timber supply, if we are to even come close to achieving net zero as an industry. We wholeheartedly support the intentions of the National Wood Strategy for England, but at the same time must recognise that this does not represent the breadth of our membership.

Timber in Construction Roadmap

We also welcomed the release of the anticipated timber in construction roadmap, published by Defra on Monday 11 December. The Institute fully supports the ambitious timber in construction roadmap, which highlights a collaborative forestry and affiliate sector vision to boost the sustainable use of UK timber in construction and its use within the domestic supply chain. Not only does this roadmap provide an insight into our productive needs starting with the nursery sector, but it also emphasises the importance and requirement for professional skills and competencies across the supply chain, to deliver much needed innovation within the sector.

Scotland’s Woodland Creation Summit

On 12 December, Louise Simpson, Jo Fox-Evans, Head of Policy & Partnerships, and Dr Stuart Glen, Member Services Director, attended the Woodland Creation Summit organised by Scottish Forestry and managed on its behalf by the Institute. At the summit, Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, announced a record approval of 13,111 hectares as part of Scotland’s woodland creation programme. Ms Gougeon also focussed on the need for increased skills across the sector and the importance of collaboration and engagement with communities and stakeholders. The summit  featured workshops for professionals to provide their views and recommendations to Government on the barriers to and opportunities for woodland creation in Scotland.

Professional Forester Apprenticeship

Finally, applications for the next cohort of Professional Forester apprentices were launched this month as part of National Tree Week. The programme is a partnership between the Forestry Commission, the University of Cumbria and the Institute of Chartered Foresters and offers a three-year, paid development opportunity for individuals from all backgrounds looking to kickstart their careers in forestry. Dr Rob Hawkins, Senior Education and Outreach Officer at the Institute of Chartered Foresters, said: “We are delighted to see the launch of the third year of the Professional Forester Apprenticeship. This programme is a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience alongside a BSc (Hons) degree, with the potential to gain chartered status too. It’s an exciting time to be entering the sector and this initiative is an incredible way to get a head start in an amazing career.”

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The Institute responded to the consultation from the Scottish Government on Scotland’s Strategic Framework for Biodiversity. Our response highlighted the need for more cross sector thinking and integration between forestry and farming, with a focus on landscape scale management and integration for deer control. We also asked for clarity from the government on their ambitions around restoration and what this entails within the context of the strategy, and how they see the role of the rural economy being within this, highlighting a need for a focus on economic resilience. You can read our full response here.


Dr Kristin Waeber MICFor, representative for the UK Squirrel Accord, provided an update following the last meeting in November: “The main discussion point was grey squirrel management as this plays a crucial part to red squirrel recovery.  Two new project officers are being currently recruited to focus on work which is already under with the pan to expand the work further in the future.  Alternatives of available grey squirrel management were also discussed e.g., traps used in the US.  This led to a discussion around animal welfare standards, public perception and potential by-catch“. Read the latest update on grey squirrel fertility research here.

Special Interest Groups


John Deakin MICFor, Head of Trees & Woodlands at the National Trust and Chair of the Institute’s Environmental Special Interest Group, featured in the most recent Wood for the Trees short film series, What is holding back woodland creation? The film features woodland managers, foresters, farmers, rewilders, land owners and campaigners talking about some of the reasons why the UK is not meeting its woodland creation targets.

Harvesting & Marketing

The Harvesting & Marketing Special Interest Group invited members to save the date for the Harvesting & Marketing Study Tour that will take place in Lockerbie in South West Scotland from 5-6 March 2024. This tour offers an opportunity to understand the issues and challenges from the perspective of a seller and a purchaser, with topics including the importance of preplanning, managing expectations, data capture and the use of by-products. There will also be tours of James Jones & Sons and Eon.

Sector news, guidance and reports

Natural England and the Forestry Commission’s position on woodland creation
UK Government

Peat free blocking trial
Innovative Farmers

Changes to the Woodland Creation Planning Grant
Forestry Commission

Mairi Gougeon’s Woodland Creation Summit speech
Forestry Journal

New publication on integrating trees on farms
Scottish Forestry

Institute welcomes three new Fellows
Institute of Chartered Foresters

New legislation will remove products linked to illegal deforestation from British supermarkets

Guidance on the biodiversity net gain process

Expert warns of consequences from Woodland Carbon Code changes
Scottish Woodlands

Concern over the spread of Curreya pithyophila outbreaks in Scotland and England
Forest Research

UK commits to improve access to green space and announces search for new National Park

New legislation may include housing developers to consider tree planting and aftercare to meet targets
The Guardian

£16 million funding announced for research into climate and pest resilient woodlands

Report launched on vocational routes to nature-based green jobs

Final consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme in Wales launched
Welsh Government

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