SHE has taken on the “Herculean” task of improving the quality of the UK’s hardwood timber. Now, one of the country’s top foresters has been recognised with a rare honour. 

Dr Jo Clark, head of research at the Future Trees Trust, has become the first person for nearly five years to be awarded the Royal Forestry Society’s (RFS) Gold Medal for distinguished services to forestry. She is also the first woman to receive the award.

Recently presented to her by RFS president Ben Herbert, the gong was given to Dr Clark for her work in producing better quality seeds for the UK’s broadleaved species. 

Ben said: “I am delighted to award the Royal Forestry Society’s Gold Medal, which is rarely and sparingly given, to Dr Jo Clark. Her contribution and knowledge of the future trees we should plant is immeasurable and without her and her work I think we would be at a loss to find what trees we should be planting for the future.”

Future Trees Trust chair, John Leigh Pemberton, said: “I am absolutely delighted Jo has been awarded this medal, She has been working largely on her own for 25 years and it takes a very special kind of person to do this. Her contribution to the UK’s forestry is huge. There is probably nobody now who is going to have such a beneficial effect on UK forestry.” 

The citation for her award read: “Jo has been tireless in her work to improve our timber species. Starting with liaison with landowners and foresters to find the very best ‘plus trees’, working with nurserymen, finding sites for progeny trials and working with their owners.

“That is just the beginning. From there grafted material is planted out in carefully laid out and recorded trial plots. Years of data is collected and analysed before sites can be rogued to produce seed orchards of the finest genetics from which the ultimate ‘Tested’ quality seed is eventually produced.

“This is a Herculean task and one that goes on to a large extent “under the radar”, for it is future generations that will really benefit from Jo’s painstaking work. It is her work that will ensure that our woodlands will be capable of producing better timber.”

She joins an exclusive group of Gold Medal holders. Hers was the first Gold Medal to be presented since 2019 when Geraint Richards, head forester for the Duchy of Cornwall, received the award from the then Prince Charles.