Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our A View from the Forest (previously Forestry Features) newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Wednesday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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SO, how are those resolutions going? Have you stayed away from the booze? Learned that new language? Kept your cool when someone calls Sitka the devil incarnate? 

If you are still on track to better yourself in 2024, then you have our respect. As for FJ, we tried, but by 6.30AM on January 1 our resolve had finally wilted.

With factors beyond forestry's control taking hold, 2023 had not been the year we had optimistically dreamed of in the final months of 2022. But hope springs eternal at FJ towers, and every slump comes to an end.

Here are three wishes for 2024 and one prediction for what the year might have in store. 

1) Conifer planting rates increase again 

Forestry Journal:

As of the most recent planting statistics, only Scotland planted more conifers than broadleaved species than any other country in the UK. Now there's nothing wrong with hardwood (let's have more it, please), but the fact remains that the country is falling well short of meeting its softwood needs - both here and in the long term. 

And while the government has ruled out providing clearer, species-related planting targets, Confor is among the organisations to call for a 50/50 split, and that seems like a reasonable idea to us.  

2) The Scottish Government reverses decision to axe forestry's budget 

Forestry Journal: Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and Deputy FM Shona RobisonScottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and Deputy FM Shona Robison (Image: PA)

It really was a nightmare before Christmas for Scottish foresters. Just days after meeting for the long-awaited Woodland Creation Summit, they were dealt a significant blow when the Scottish Government confirmed a £30 million budget cut to public forestry in the country

At a time when Scotland's planting rates are plummeting, the news was about as welcome as a disgraced former footballer, turned prolific tweeter turning up unexpectedly for tea (if you don't get the reference, consider yourself lucky). 

3) Timber becomes a focal point of construction 

Forestry Journal: Constractors working on the Enterprise Centre at the UEA, The timber frame has been constructed using Corsican Pine sourced from Thetford Forest

This final wish really has two elements to it. First, we remain hopeful that housebuilding finally gets back on track, overcoming 2023's astronomical inflation rates. Second, when it does, timber should be thrust front and centre. 

The December launch of England's Timber in Construction Roadmap offers hope that will be the case. 

Prediction: Low-impact, small-scale forestry continues to become more in demand

Forestry Journal: The LF8 was one of a host of low-impact machines launched last year The LF8 was one of a host of low-impact machines launched last year (Image: FJ/Jack Haugh)

We had considered once again predicting that the UK might miss its planting targets, but that hardly seems like the kind of notion to have the villagers sharpening the pitchforks and crying 'witch'. 

Instead, it's the direction of forestry that we think could well become clearer this year. For some time, the industry has known it has to adapt and improve its image (both internally and externally, maybe especially so). Whether it be the condition of harvesting sites in Scotland or Australian states shutting down native logging, forestry's impact on its woodlands isn't going unnoticed. 

Low-impact machinery is nothing new, but it's becoming more widely welcomed, with a string of new launches in 2023 (such as Farma's LF8 forwarder) suggesting the direction of travel.