In the latest in our ongoing series shining a light on women in forestry, their careers, and experiences, we speak to Carol McGinnes, a regional manager with Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). 

THEY say forestry is all about the diversity of its roles, and Carol McGinnes is a great example of that. Hers is a position totally different to that of a tree officer. A regional manager with Forestry and Land Scotland’s (FLS) central region, she is responsible for managing hundreds of members of staff across mixed woodlands. 

The work she oversees is equally varied, including what she calls “traditional forestry” – growing trees, normally Sitka spruce, for commercial use – and peatland restoration.

Increasing biodiversity on FLS’s estate is also at the heart of what she does, not to mention the fact she has to ensure the woodlands under her control are ready to welcome visitors from all walks of life. The Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is the jewel in her region’s crown. 

READ MORE: Women in Forestry: Forestry and Land Scotland's Victoria Potts

So, plenty to keep Carol and her team on their toes, but it’s the possibilities for forestry’s future that have her most excited. 

“Besides just producing timber, there are other opportunities for us to leave a legacy. That could be by locking up carbon. There are more opportunities to restore land. 

“There is the opportunity to create landscape-scale native forestry. We have that opportunity ahead for us. There is a financial stream and it’s not necessitating that you have to plant trees as a timber crop. 

“That mass felling gives us an opportunity to rethink that landscape. What should it look like? 

“We have the opportunity to move even faster. We still need commercial forestry and conifer plantations. Climate change is going to bring more disease for different trees. But it’s an opportunity.” 

In turn, Carol says, there is the chance to learn from the ‘mistakes of the past’, albeit she acknowledges that’s a bit of a harsh term. Foresters of yesteryear were just doing what they could with the tools of the time, but future planting can go some way to addressing current issues, such as harvesting on steep ground; while not on her patch, work between Glencoe and Inverness is a fine example of how FLS has had to overcome that very thing. 

Forestry Journal: Felling of Sitka spruce today on the A9Felling of Sitka spruce today on the A9 (Image: Supplied)

“That’s not our fault, that’s the legacy we were left with,” Carol said. “But I am sure they thought we would have the methods to harvest trees on that ground in 40/50 years! 

“But we won’t be planting on steep ground. We’ve learned that. The landscapes of Scotland will change. You won’t be seeing trees on steep ground again. 

“We work to the right tree in the right place more than people did in the past. 40 years ago they were producing timber because they needed timber. That’s not necessary now.

"We can think about putting trees in for a different reason, be it to protect against flooding or to reinvigorate the Atlantic rainforest. 

“But it still needs money spent on it. 

“If we manage to tackle the deer population, we might see a different landscape. We were not managing deer as well in the past, and are trying to get more on top of it now.” 

Carol, who studied environmental health at university and spent many years with SEPA before switching to forestry in 2018, has led a number of passion projects during her time with FLS. Not least of all the work being done to utilise Scotland’s forests even more for their mental health benefits – a 2021 study estimated this could save the NHS £26 million each year – and to encourage more children out into the woods. 

“We work with a lot of nursery groups, the NHS, mental health groups,” she said. “We are working with them to show how utilising the outdoors can boost your mental health.

If you were to go into any one of our woodlands, you have many woodland walks that are no more than five miles. The idea being if it’s more than five miles, you’ll do it yourself. 

READ MORE: Women in Forestry: Forestry Journal launches new series

“That is bringing the outdoor space to areas where they don’t have a lot of outdoor space. In places like Airdrie, you’ll have small woodlands that are outdoor space for people. 

“That managing woodland for public use and access is one of the main things done by the organisation. 

Forestry Journal: Loch Lomond is the jewel in Carol's regional crown Loch Lomond is the jewel in Carol's regional crown (Image: RSPB)

“We’re managing woodlands for the public to use.” 

But, she admits, funding – or lack thereof – can often get in the way. 

“We need the support of the organisation we are working with. In the past, we have worked with councils that have had funding to take nurseries out into the woods one day a week. Where funding has been withdrawn, it falls away. Nurseries might be too stretched to take 20 kids up to a woodland.” 

But let’s end on a positive note. One of the reasons for launching this series was to find out about the experience women have working in forestry. The good news is, Carol’s is overwhelmingly positive. 

“In this region where you have a diverse population, I don’t find it a misogynistic organisation to work with. I don’t find that. It’s great to see women coming into this organisation. 

“I get a great buzz of bringing people – especially women – into an organisation and seeing them thrive.” 

This series will continue in future editions of Forestry Journal. If you’d like to take part, email