Failing to see the wood for the trees

Last weekend I was watching Costa Rica accept the Earthshot Prize for restoring their forest to 75% cover – and that’s impressive. And then I saw a news program about the loss of rainforest in the Amazon and its impact on the planet

But how often do people, here at home, recognise that our ancestors did exactly the same to the original forest cover of the United Kingdom. Here in Scotland, woodland cover is 19% with a government target of 21% by 2032. In the present crises this is an extremely disappointing vision.  Even somewhere special like the Cairngorms National Park has only 14%.

In Scotland we have a massive potential for ecological restoration. Degraded grazing lands, bare hills, over-used poor quality farmland, treeless river catchments and offshore islands all need restoring with woodland – no longer just commercial non-native conifers but mixed native woodland and shrub reaching onto the higher slopes.  

Now that it is recognised that woods are not just for timber, but are more essential for ecosystem health and life on Earth, then restoration is job creation on a massive scale. To get to 50% or 60% of Scotland will require hundreds of millions of trees, bushes and shrubs. Many nursery grown but may be more from natural regeneration, or a mix of the two. 

As the world puts pressure on the rain forest countries to change direction, surely our governments must show greater vision and determination to restore the original woodland ecosystems. If not why should they listen to us!