Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our Latest from the Woods newsletter (previously Forestry Latest News), which is emailed out at 4PM every Friday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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VERY occasionally, a story emerges that seems almost unbelievable – yet entirely plausible. 

This came to mind earlier in the week when the ground-breaking news emerged that Ireland's forestry agency would only plant native species from 2025 onwards. In a major shift in policy, Coillte said it had taken the decision to boost the island's "flora and fauna", while "holding its hands up" and admitting it had been part of the problem for too long. 

At least that's what the Irish Times, one of Ireland's leading newspapers, reported. But it didn't take long for the story to unravel. 

Amid a flurry of equal disbelief and celebration on social media, the original article was quietly deleted from the newspaper's website, only for a correction to sheepishly emerge later that same day, putting the record straight. 

No, Coillte won't be planting only native species from 2025. The news turned out to be nothing more than a hoax, but the joy that greeted the ill-fated announcement was telling. 

More so than in the UK, there appears to be growing anger against non-native, coniferous plantations in Ireland. Just last year, we saw Sitka saplings being torn up by self-proclaimed climate change activists on a Coiltte site. While there is strong resentment towards the softwood among the UK's four nations – and, invariably, the hard-working forestry professionals who fell it – this hasn't quite manifested itself in the same way yet. 

But despite Sitka plantations injecting millions into the UK economy and providing thousands of jobs (either directly or indirectly), there are those within forestry itself who want to see a shift away from the country's reliance on the species, especially in Scotland.

At the recent Forest Policy Group conference – which considered Better Forestry – one forester told me that species choice had to evolve or forestry would be rendered obsolete in time, either by yet more imported timber or (as we have seen in the past) the prevalence of pests and disease and their devastating effects. As he put it: what if Ips typographus does make itself at home in Scotland? 

Forestry Journal: Species like Sitka spruce are widely used in construction

And herein lies one of forestry's great challenges and the many circles it has to square. 

We need to reduce our reliance on imports and international markets. We need to create more rural jobs. We need to grow more timber (both softwood and hardwood). We need harvesting contractors to feel just as welcome as conservationists. 

But finding a way to do all this while reaching widespread consensus? That's the tricky part. 

There's a thin line between revolution and wreckage – how forestry treads that will be vital to the vibrancy of the industry.