Scotland’s Young People’s Forest
9 March 2022
Scotland’s Young People’s Forest is led by a diverse panel of under 25-year-olds, with the vision to create the first forest in the country, co-designed, led and governed by young people.
The group is currently creating a new forest and learning how to lead and govern it - including sustainable planting strategies, land ownership and management structures. The youth panel is being supported by Young Scot and YouthLink Scotland, alongside partners including Corra Foundation, NatureScot, Pears Foundation, Scottish Enterprise and Wood.
We were delighted to speak to Katherine, a member of the Young People’s Forest panel. Katherine joined the group to meet likeminded people, to share her passion for protecting the environment and to encourage others to also take action. Inspired by David Attenborough growing up, she felt motivated to take part in the group and wants to see more people taking climate action.
“Everyone can make a difference – no matter who they are and what background they come from.”
“I don’t have any experience of forest design, so I am excited to be learning more about that in the future too. Ultimately, I am excited about the impact that we will make.”
The exciting work of Scotland’s Young People’s Forest will create a community space for all to enjoy, tackling nature loss and playing their part in Scotland’s journey to net zero emissions. Scotland’s forests and woodlands play an important role in tackling climate change by soaking up around 6.2 million tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions each year.
“Scotland’s Young People’s Forest will help in Scotland’s mission to plant more trees. It is fantastic to be part of a project that might help recreate the Caledonian Pine Forest. It is essential that young people are leading this project. We are the next generation of grown-ups and we will have to deal with the climate crisis.”
“I think protecting nature is one of the key ways of us helping to tackle the climate emergency. We can do this by protecting certain types of trees that will help to look after the planet.”
Scotland’s Climate Change Plan sets out an ambitious target to increase woodland cover from around 19% of the total area of Scotland, to 21% by 2032. The aim is to increase planting levels from 12,000 hectares (around 24 million trees) in 2020-21, up to 18,000 hectares (around 36 million trees) a year by 2025. Over the last three years, Scotland has created almost 33,000 hectares of new woodland by planting around 66 million trees – approximately 80% of all woodland creation in the UK in that period.
Nature and wellbeing
Spending time in nature and green space can benefit all of us both mentally and physically. For many of us across Scotland, we have used the lockdowns to fully explore our local areas and discover nature. After her studies each day, Katherine used this time to learn more about nature and how to identify trees.
“My way of escape is spending time outdoors. Being around trees and birds makes me immediately feel more relaxed and helps to relieve stress and negativity. There are so many amazing spots on all of our doorways to explore.”
It’s important to look after the spaces we’re using to keep them clean, safe and allow them to flourish.
Scotland's Young People's Forest was one of Scotland's flagship projects at COP26 in Glasgow in October 2021.
Representatives of the panel shared their ideas and explained the concept of Young People's Forest in COP26's blue zone, inviting discussion around the future of the project and their ambition.
For Katherine, COP26 was an important reminder for everyone to take action, from world leaders to communities and individuals to tackle the climate emergency.
“I would say it may look daunting (the future) but we all have to work as a team and we can all be part of it.”
What have the panel done so far?
The panel had their first face-to-face meeting at Nethercroy woodlands in Croy to explore the surrounding area and learn about the history, multipurpose forestry, forest management, and species' impact. Walking around the land helped many visualise the different uses of the land and what they need to consider moving forward in the project's development phase.
Progress has also been made by meeting with the Scottish Land Commission to discuss various land management and ownership models in deciding how to set up the forest.
For more information on Scotland’s Young People Forest, visit the Young Scot’s website.
You can also read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to discover how to care for and make the most out of Scotland’s forests and great outdoors.