FORESTRY and Land Scotland (FLS) has said it intends to deliver as much of its 2020/21 Business Plan as possible, as it gets the preparations required for an eventual return to normal duties post-COVID-19 underway.

With the majority of FLS staff now working from home, some are still involved with essential felling work, while also maintaining physical distance and following current government and NHS health advice.

Praising their efforts across the board, FLS chief executive, Simon Hodgson, acknowledged that there is a still lot of work to do.

He said: “In a time of difficult adjustments and adaptations for the whole country, I am very proud of the remarkable effort that is being made by all of my colleagues. 

“Like every public agency, our priority is the same as the Scottish Government’s – to implement the public health guidance to help prevent the spread of the virus, protect our NHS and save lives, including our staff and also the public.

“We are maintaining our contribution to the national effort to get through the health crisis. This remains our top priority.

“Beyond this, those of our staff who are not engaged in essential work are thinking about what we will need to happen, such that when current restrictions are lifted we can deliver on the actions set out in our Business Plan.”

Key elements of the Business Plan included proposals to create 650 ha of new woodland, the restoration of 150 ha of vacant and derelict land, development work to expand FLS tree nurseries and the seed supply, and improvements to the offer to visitors and communities.

Simon added: “This is an extremely challenging period for everyone in Scotland. Even when the immediate crisis has passed, this will leave a lasting burden. 

“However, when it does recede – as it will – and current restrictions are eased, there will be a huge job to do in getting the country back on its feet. We are working hard to be prepared to play our part in that national effort.”

Ongoing essential forestry work includes harvesting work that is supplying timber for the production of pallets, biofuel, packaging and high-quality paper products that are underpinning the essential logistical, manufacturing and medical efforts of key frontline personnel.

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