Worth the view?

About a square mile of forest was felled

This is a (not very good) photo from the viewing point on the Barluasgan Oakwood trail showing the area of forest removed, with loch Barnluasgan in the foreground and the car park as a reference point. Before felling, loch Coille-Bharr was not visible. It certainly is now, though.

I have finally realised something fundamental about the workings of Forestry and Land Scotland (FALS) and it is this: they care little about the land entrusted to them.

If this seems to you in any way inaccurate or a mean statement, I would like to invite you to read on.

A day or so ago I took a walk on the well-maintained path that sits high above Loch Barnluasgan, the relatively small body of water that abutts its much larger neighbour Loch Coille-Bharr. Both of these freshwater lochs are home to the beaver, which although a protected species is frequently allowed to be killed by NatureScot. More about that at a later date...

The path itself provides a moderately breathless climb through what appears to be relatively new growth; certainly, the trees here are very young, none of them reaching more than a few metres high and at this time of year you can catch glimpses of Barnluasgan through the denuded canopy as you climb. At the top there is a thoughfully placed bench where you can explore the view, and this is where I realised why the forest at Coille-Bharr had been removed. I previously made this climb in 2016. At the time, the woodland nearly totally obscured the view of Coille-Bharr. Now, the picture was entirely different, thanks to FALS.

When the forest was felled over two years ago, I sent politely incandescent emails to any organisations who I thought might be interested. These included, Forestry and Land Scotland, The Woodland Trust, Argyll and Bute Council, VisitScotland, NatureScot and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. I quickly discovered that they weren't, each one telling me that decision-making was made by a different agency and that, quite honestly, it wasn't their problem. I did learn, however, that environmen-tal degradation wasn't going to be problem for the wildlife as it would 'self-relocate'.

I was also told by a gentleman from NatureScot, "I understand that the area will appear unsightly for a while, but the longer term benefits of the woodland management will be very positive for our native woodland and wildlife."

Image by AJ Yakstrangler
The felled forest from the opposite direction

"10 Sept 2019 loch coille bharr (3)" by AJ Yakstrangler is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

The forestry planning manager from FALS told me, "Felling of maturing conifer crops for slope stability is undertaken since if the conifer trees get very tall they are more prone to been blown over in storms and gales which can lead to the root plates being pulled out the ground and exacerbating any slope stability problems."

Call me hysterical, but can someone please tell me how an area and its' biodiversity can be enhanced by clear-felling a forest? The simple answer is that it can't and my reply to both NatureScot and FALS is this: "I believe you chopped down these trees in order to enhance the view from the adjoining hillside."

If you visit today, please be sure to admire the now visible Loch Coille -Bharr and to congratulate FALS on removing an entire forest in order to enhance your viewing pleasure.