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Policy Roundup – March 2024

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

Institute news

March has been a busy month for the Institute with many staff getting out and about, engaging with our members and stakeholders. We have also launched ten events, including our Early Careers Professional Study Tour, Carbon Investment: A Green Future. We also celebrated International Women’s Day on 8 March. Women are still underrepresented in our sector, and we need to ensure that people from all genders and backgrounds consider forestry and arboriculture as a career that is open to them. Our Strategic Plan 2022-2026 aspires to increase the diversity of our membership.

The month started with Dr Rob Hawkins, Senior Education and Outreach Officer, and Dr Stuart Glen, Member Services Director leading a session on professionalism for degree-level forestry apprentices on 4 March at the University of Cumbria, as part of the Forestry Professional Practice Module.

Our Strong Voice continued with Jo Fox-Evans, Head of Policy & Partnerships, representing the Institute at the Defra Future of Trees and Forestry Forum on 6 March. ‘Team Tree’ at Defra updated attendees on the achievements of the Nature for Climate Fund Tree Programme, including progress on planting targets, the Timber in Construction roadmap, guidance on tax treatment of trees, Woodland Access Implementation Plan and the Professional Forester Apprenticeship programme. The forum also provided breakout sessions to share best practice and a closing ‘Pitch Us A Policy’ session.

On 12 March, at Confor’s annual Dinner & Awards in Edinburgh, Louise Simpson, Executive Director and Geraint Richards MVO FICFor, President, were delighted to announce that Gordon Brown MICFor, Managing Director of TreeStory, was awarded Professional Forester of the Year 2024. Commenting on his award, Gordon said: “It is such an honour to have received this award, especially given the high calibre of the other nominees. I am incredibly grateful to the Institute for their recognition, and for the role they have played in the development of my career. As we are now in our fifth year at TreeStory, it is a hugely appreciated and timely recognition of all the hard work that has gone into trying to create a business committed to building a future where people and planet can thrive together” – read the full story.

We are pleased to announce the National Tree Officers Conference will return on 6 November 2024 in Leeds, building on the success of eight previous events. The call for presentations is now open, closing on Friday 17 May. If you have any queries regarding the submission process, please contact Becky Porter, Executive Officer at the LTOA –

Finally, a recently published research report commissioned by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, “Review of Activity to Address the Lack of Diversity in the Environment Sector” reported that the environment sector is one of the least diverse sectors: 4.81% of environment professionals identify as Black, Asian or other racially minoritised groups compared to 12.64% in all occupations. The report highlights the work of the Institute on diversity and inclusion as part of our strategy, recognising that the sector is likely to attract increasing numbers of neurodivergent people and ensuring relevant CPD is accessible. However, very little work has been done on racial diversity with the sector.


Responding to public consultations is an important way to influence policy. We consult with members as much as possible and often work in partnership with other organisations to strengthen our messages. We also produce papers on specific topics where it is important to publish our position.

This month, we submitted our response to the Sustainable Farming Scheme. Our response highlighted that we believe the policy objective of increasing woodland cover needs to be delivered through a scheme that is not perceived as having arbitrary targets, but by a scheme that enables farmers to increase woodland cover in ways that they consider will help them to improve the management of their land, whilst benefiting the environment and contributing to our production targets. We asked for clarification on how government sees the woodland offer within this scheme positively contributing to the development of the Timber Strategy. Read our reponse.

We are also encouraging members to respond to the following consultations:



This month Shona Smyth MICFor, Technical Policy Manager, explains the role of representatives and how you can get involved.

Our reps sit on groups, panels and committees across the sector, actively participating, feeding back developments and advising us on actions to take. The role of an ICF Representative is a crucial touch point between Institute staff, Council and members. The purpose of the role is to enable the Institute, through the Technical Policy Manager, to deliver on our policy aims to:

  • Influence stakeholders and policymakers
  • Inform members and give them a voice
  • Raise the profile of the Institute, our members, and the profession.


We also want to engage the wider membership in policy work and improve the two-way flow of information. Reps support this by helping us update members on what the Institute is doing and raising awareness of the Institute and our work in the group and in your professional networks. You can find out more here. If there are any groups that we should be represented on, please contact Shona Smyth MICFor.

Special Interest & Steering groups

The Institute’s Special Interest Groups aim to represent the needs and interests of different areas in the sector and facilitate increased knowledge exchange. They work to provide relevant CPD and training for members around their areas of expertise, all whilst working towards a shared understanding of what professionalism means across forestry and arboriculture.

The Harvesting & Marketing Special Interest Group successfully hosted their first in-person Harvesting & Marketing Study Tour in Lockerbie. This is the first Harvesting & Marketing Study Tour the Institute has hosted since 2015. The two-day study tour featured visits to Castlemilk Estates, Terra (part of the Eskdalemuir forestry portfolio) and Buccleuch Estate, before concluding with a mill tour of James Jones & Sons. There was plenty of discussion and debate on the first day around how a tender should be presented to allow buyers/contractors to bid for a job effectively, pricing matrix, and constraints including high public use, utility companies, private water supplies, archaeology and wildlife. Day Two focussed on alternative species change in light of UKFS and what this means for sawmilling, with many large-scale businesses set up to process white wood and the perception of red wood and what this means for sawmilling development.

Also, our Arboriculture and Urban Forestry Steering Group hosted their first “Tree Surgery” drop-in session on 21 March. There was plenty of discussion raised on the following topics:

  • Biodiversity Net Gain – Need for more GIS training and support
  • BS5837 revision and links to BNG
  • Ashes from ashes project
  • Looking for lesions on Limes
  • Plant passports for felled trees
  • Knepp Estate Ancient Trees for Arborists two-day training course
  • Tree Architecture courses run by the Ancient Tree Forum and request for more regional training especially in Scotland
  • Vet Cert Practicing and Consulting Exams and training
  • European Arb Standards.


The next instalment of Tree Surgery will return in April. For more information and to suggest topics for discussion please contact Shona Smyth MICFor.

Sector news, guidance and reports

Wales confirm Vaughan Gething as new First Minister

Wales announce Huw Irranca-Davies as new rural affairs secretary
Forestry Journal

RSE publish inquiry into public financial support for tree planting and forestry
The Royal Society of Edinburgh

Harvesting companies in the UK asked to share timber data
Forestry Journal

Government publishes plans for domestic hedgerow in England

UK Wildfire Conference to be held in Aberdeen in November
Forestry Journal

Study warns that the spread of the bronze birch borer beetle could destroy all European birch trees
Finnish Forest Association

FLS 100-year old Douglas Fir timber from the A82 harvesting programme being used to build full-scale log house
Timber Development UK

International Day of Forests – 21 March
United Nations

New Handbook for Carbon Neutral Buildings published
Built by Nature

How Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems at health centres are improving patient, staff and visitor wellbeing
GreenBlue Urban

New report on carbon reduction in the UK landscape sector
Landscape Institute

Increased EWCO payment rates and incentives for farmers and land managers

University scheme to plant an estimated two million trees and restore at least 855 hectares of peatlands to offset carbon emissions
University of Edinburgh

Climate Change Committee urges the Scottish Government to publish plans to meet climate targets
Climate Change Committee

Scottish Land & Estates respond to critical CCC report condemning government funding cuts
Scottish Land & Estates

FISA appoints Andy Newbold as new Chair
Forestry Journal

UK pledges £6 million new funding to protect forests and cut emissions in Zambia
Department for Energy Security and Net Zero

New approach to FC consulations enters first phase
Forestry Commission

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