THE winners of the Confor Awards 2024 received accolades at a plush dinner in Edinburgh this week.

Future forestry leaders, great communicators and inspiring innovators were honoured alongside a dedicated servant of the sector at the industry body's largest-ever awards dinner.

Speaking ahead of the event, Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall said the evening was an opportunity to look ahead positively to the future. 

“This is a resilient industry, and amidst all the challenges we face, it is more important than ever to have representatives to champion our work and to realise the significant potential that exists across our sector," he said. 

Rodney Shearer of Elsoms Trees won the top award for dedicated service to forestry, while Rosanna Curtis of Reheat won the Tom A Bruce-Jones Memorial Award for Future Leader in the Forest Industry.

Tomorrow's Forests was the winner of the Changing Attitudes Award for its work producing quality content highlighting the vital role of forestry, and Rainbow Professional won the Net Zero Award for the development of its biodegradable tree shelters.

Daniel Iddon, SAF Woodland Management, scooped the Science and Technology prize, while Gordon Brown of TreeStory picked up the Institute of Chartered Foresters Professional Forester of the Year Award.

The dinner heard a video message from rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon, whose brief includes forestry, and a live speech from Jim Fairlie MSP, minister for agriculture and connectivity. Mr Fairlie described forestry as a “dynamic industry with sustainability at its core” and said it was vital to Scotland’s climate change ambitions.

He recognised industry concerns about the 41 per cent reduction in the Scottish Government budget for woodland creation in 2024/25 but said ministers were “doing everything we can in straitened times”. 

Mr Fairlie thanked the forestry industry for its work and said there was a record number of approvals for new planting in the system (around 14,000 hectares). 
He added: “It's critical we make the most of the available funds this year and get as much planted as possible. Keeping up momentum increases the case for more funding in future.”

Later, Stuart Goodall highlighted the deep industry concerns over the budget cut, noting that nurseries would have to make decisions soon about how many young trees to grow for the coming years, and without additional funding being made available quickly nurseries would inevitably reduce their production, ‘baking in’ a significant reduction in future tree supply and meaning woodland creation targets would be significantly undershot for at least the next three to four years. 

The full list of winners is as follows: 

  • Forester of the Year - Gordon Brown

Forestry Journal: Photo L-R: Louise Simpson (ICF), Gordon Brown and Geraint Richard

  • Changing Attitudes Award - Tomorrow’s Forests

Forestry Journal:

  • Tom A Bruce-Jones Memorial Award for Future Leader in the Forest Industry -  Rosanna Curtis 

Forestry Journal:

  • Net Zero Award - Rainbow Professional 

Forestry Journal:

  • Science & Technology Award - Daniel Iddon

Forestry Journal:

NOTE:  Anthony Geddes collected the award on Daniel's behalf 

  • Dedicated Service to Forestry - Rodney Shearer