PB 2024 Q1

Reflections on 2023, plans for 2024

Some thoughts from President, Wilma Harper

Wilma Harper

During 2023, we drew up a refreshed strategy for the RSFS. When we asked members for their views, their priorities were that the society should be a provider of relevant, practical forestry events and a reliable and regular provider of information. The highest scores were for regional field days, bringing people together, publishing information, the Annual Study Tour and training. ‍

In 2023, our regional field days and the Annual Study Tour showcased the breadth of Scotland’s woodland types and management objectives. We also ran training events on forest mensuration and on indicator plants and soils, meeting the growing demand for practical learning. Many events were fully subscribed.

Work is under way in the regions for the 2024 programme, and all field days are published on the homepage of our website and listed in the fortnightly eNews. We now expect members to book. This helps the organisers and means that we can contact you if details change. ‍

Our obligations as an organiser have been changing (e.g. health and safety, safeguarding obligations, biosecurity requirements, visitor welfare, insurance and several other matters) and we are looking at how we can better support regional committee members and hosts, all of whom are volunteers, to make managing events as straightforward as possible.

The Annual Study Tour 2024 will take place from 12 to 15 May, hosted by Central Region and offering visits to a wide range of forest types and management strategies – a great opportunity to learn, discuss and catch up with knowledgeable fellow professionals and enthusiasts.

This year also sees the implementation of the society’s refreshed Corporate Membership Scheme, developed as part of the plan to broaden membership and to increase the value and relevance of being a part of the RSFS. Liaison with the sector has identified a need for hands-on workshops on subjects identified as priorities by a steering group of foresters, and a suite of these events will begin to be rolled out in coming months. I’m grateful to Vice President Raymond Henderson for his work in spearheading these two initiatives.

Our journal, Scottish Forestry, contains an appealing mix of peer-reviewed articles, research, opinion and news in a professionally edited, high quality journal. Members can also access the journal online, including the archive stretching back to 1858. You can also keep up to date with our fortnightly eNews digest of forestry news.

It's always welcome to be recognised, and in February 2023, as part of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Scottish Forestry Trust, a special award for ‘Education and Outreach’ was awarded to RSFS for its work at Cashel Forest. In recent years, Cashel has developed from a low-profile native forest with walking routes into a site offering a remarkable range of events and activities. During 2023, the RSFS and Cashel Boards worked closely together, and will be taking time this winter to assess the priorities for Cashel going forward. We now have a better understanding of the opportunities which could be developed there, and that has come with greater awareness of the challenges which need to be addressed.

In September 2023, RSFS was the chosen charity for the auctioning of a unique, 70-year-old whisky – ‘The Devotion’, created at the Glen Grant distillery to mark the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and kindly donated by Campari, owners of the Glen Grant. The proceeds will be used to create a new native woodland on the Back Burn which runs through the distillery – planting that will protect its banks and sustain water quality.

RSFS is a small charity, and I want to ensure that we tread the careful path between meeting the necessary standards of compliance and good governance while looking for ways to streamline our operations and keep things as simple as we can. Like most charities, the RSFS depends on the support of people who volunteer for various roles or take on particular tasks. Fulfilling a voluntary role is satisfying in its own right, and can provide a range of experience and contribute to professional development. If you feel you can help in any way, let us know. The Society’s lifeblood is enriched by new – particularly young – people with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.

RSFS is enriched by its members, people who share a belief in and passion for all the benefits brought to us by Scotland’s trees, woods and forests.