IT’S always interesting when a forestry story makes headlines in the mainstream media.

BrewDog’s ‘Lost’ Forest is one recent case, capturing the attention of press and public after it was revealed more than half the trees it had planted at its Highland site had died.

A company that courts attention (and not infrequent controversy), it was likely BrewDog would face more scrutiny than most over its plans to ‘save the planet’ and eliminate its own carbon footprint through tree planting – but by any metric its early foray into forestry has been disastrous.


So what was the cause of the failure? The weather? The wrong species mix? A lack of deer control?

One comment on social media caught my eye: “This is what happens when forestry is done for profit and not for love.”

Were you aware that forestry is a pursuit reserved for lovers? If you were under the impression it was an enterprise from which you could reasonably expect to make a living, perhaps it’s time to think again.

I’d be inclined to ignore the comment if its sentiment wasn’t one I’m encountering more frequently. At a recent event, speaking to an academic on the future of the sector I ventured to put forth my own opinion (always inadvisable) that to succeed, forestry must be profitable.

They gave me a sceptical look and replied: “But does it have to be so profitable?”

This misty-eyed view of forestry, that it should be a romantic endeavour free of concerns of money, seems to me an absurdly privileged one. I have nothing against wealthy hobbyists playing about with rewilding and broadleaves, but we will all lose out if forestry, in general, becomes their domain.

Forestry Journal: Brewdog's 'Lost Forest' certainly got people talking about forestry Brewdog's 'Lost Forest' certainly got people talking about forestry

My own preference is for a more egalitarian industry, supporting tens of thousands of people from all different backgrounds (even the corporate world), and the pursuit of multiple objectives. But this can only happen if forestry can make money for those engaged in it.

If that thought gives you a shiver of distaste, we may have a problem.

This article originally appeared as John McNee's Letter from the Editor in Forestry Journal's May 2024 edition.