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Professional Forester of the Year Winner Announced at Confor Dinner & Awards 2023

The Institute is delighted to announce that Jonathan Callis MICFor, Senior Asset Manager at Network Rail, has won the inaugural Professional Forester of the Year award.

Presented at the Confor Dinner & Awards 2023, the award recognises contributions to the betterment of forestry on a community, regional, national or international level. Professional Forester of the Year is awarded on the basis of a specific project or a range of activities undertaken by a member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters within the last three years.

(l-r) Steve McCartney FICFor, Shireen Chambers MBE FICFor, Dr Neil Strong MICFor, Jonathan Callis MICFor, John Browne FICFor, Dr Mike Yerbury FICFor, Louise Simpson

Competition for the award was strong, with four shortlisted candidates chosen by the judging panel from a field of nearly 30 nominated candidates. Made up of four Institute Fellows, the judging panel included Steve McCartney FICFor (Chair), John Browne FICFor, Shireen Chambers MBE FICFor and Dr Mike Yerbury FICFor. In addition to Jonathan, the other shortlisted candidates were David Hay MICFor, Scottish Forestry; Andrew Heald MICFor, NGPTA and Andrew Heald Consulting Ltd; and Paul Nolan OBE MICFor, Mersey Forest.

Commenting on his award, Jonathan said:

“I’m delighted, and surprised, to have won the first Professional Forester of the Year award. I wasn’t expecting to win given how strong the other nominees were, and I’m pleased to have been recognised by fellow professionals in the sector. Membership of the Institute helps me to continually progress on a professional level, with CPD resources such as the fortnightly Members’ Hours a real benefit for personal development.”

Chair of the judging panel, Steve McCartney FICFor, commented:

“The panel were very impressed by Jonathan’s wide-ranging involvement in promoting trees, particularly among those not familiar with forestry and sustainable tree management. Achieving his aims in a potentially unsympathetic arena is no small feat, and the comments from Jonathan’s colleagues bolstered the impression of a well-liked and well-rounded professional helping many to both improve their own knowledge and to deliver tree-positive environments.”

Jonathan has worked for Network Rail Scotland for more than 20 years and judges were impressed by the strong level of support reflected in his nomination, his work in championing Technical membership of the Institute, and his active engagement and knowledge sharing with colleagues. He is one of the few Chartered Foresters working in the rail industry, respected for his wealth of knowledge and work representing both Network Rail and the Institute.

Instrumental in setting policy and providing direction for the management of lineside vegetation, Jonathan demonstrates a pragmatic approach to the sustainable management of trees and woodland alongside an expansive infrastructure network. He performs his role under significant scrutiny – not only does he have to showcase competent tree management to the general public, but also to his colleagues whose knowledge of trees may be minimal. He has played a significant role in developing relationships with many key stakeholders including Forest and Land Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Forest Industry Safety Accord and the Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group.

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