A new five year initiative is being developed to help crofters in the north and west of Scotland unlock the benefits of new native woodland.
From August crofters will be able to receive free specialist advice on creating new native woodland as well as managing existing woodland, and funding will be available to help access the new Forestry Grant Scheme, which runs until 2020.
The Croft Woodlands Project is a partnership between the Scottish Crofting Federation, the Woodland Trust Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland. Up to three project officers will be employed to provide advice on woodland design and the funding options that are available.
The project has been backed by the Chairman of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Crofting, Jamie McGrigor MSP, who said: “It’s tremendous to see this initiative supporting crofters who wish to plant or manage woodland as part of their business.
“Integrating woodland into croft management offers the potential to provide a whole range of benefits including shelter for buildings and livestock, a source of wood fuel, and new habitats for wildlife. All of these benefits support both the lives and livelihoods of both crofters themselves and the wider community.”
Eleanor Garty from the Woodland Trust Scotland said: “The crofting counties include some of the least wooded parts of Scotland. Establishing woodland in very exposed areas such as Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles is difficult but in the right places and with the right mix of species trees can flourish. We know from previous work that there is a large and unmet demand from crofters to create new woodland that enhances their livelihoods, and for advice on managing existing woodland.
“Our project aims to overcome some of the big barriers facing crofters who want to plant trees including the short term finance needed to access funding and a lack of training and specialist woodland knowledge.”
Patrick Krause from the Scottish Crofting Federations said: “Trees work very well on crofts, offering many benefits such as a sustainable source of fuel and timber, and offering increased shelter for crops, livestock and structures, this project will act as a ‘lever’ helping crofters to source advice and funding.”
John Risby, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Conservator in the Highlands & Islands, said: “Since the Crofter Forestry Act was introduced in 1991 Forestry Commission Scotland has provided support and grants to over 500 crofters and common grazings to create new woodlands.
“We are delighted to support this new project which aims at providing additional on-the-ground advice and support to help unlock the benefits woodlands can provide when integrated with crofting activity.”