Our Forests, our future

Today (Thursday 21 March) is International Day of Forests, a day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness about the importance of all different types of forests and their many benefits.

This year’s theme celebrates innovation in forestry and finding new solutions for a better world.

To mark the day, Greg Jones, one of our Senior Forestry Officers, tells us more about how our teams ensure our forests and woodlands are managed sustainably, so they can help support innovation in the forestry sector and deliver for future generations.

Putting sustainable forest management at the heart of what we do

From helping us to tackle climate change by locking up carbon, providing valuable habitats for plants and wildlife, to growing and supplying timber which supports employment and rural livelihoods – our forests and woodlands in Wales play a vital role in our environment and economy.

All our forests that form the Welsh Government Woodland Estate (WGWE) are managed by our fantastic forest operations and land management teams, to ensure they provide the best possible balance for people, the environment, wildlife, and sustainable timber production.

Managing our forests sustainably means managing for a range of objectives including conservation to support plant life, wildlife and key habitats such as those along watercourses. Integrating the production of timber with species and habitat conservation in a forest environment for the people of Wales to enjoy forms the backbone of sustainable forestry.

As the largest supplier of certified timber in Wales, we harvest around 800,000 m3 of trees from our forests each year, with all our forests having long term resource plans setting out how their nature and character will be sustainably managed over the next 25 to 50 years.

Welsh wood for Welsh homes

As well as providing homes for Welsh wildlife, our forests and woodlands also provides homes for the people of Wales through timber production.

The sustainable production of timber is a core objective of what we do in the Forest Operations Teams and they work with our Sales Team to put timber to market. Timber is sold at roadside or standing where our forestry staff work with timber buyers and their Forest Works Managers to ensure a steady flow of sustainably grown Welsh timber to sawmills across Wales and beyond for a variety of uses.

Wood is a superb construction material as it is wonderfully versatile, light, strong and renewable. Using timber in our homes helps us to tackle climate change by locking up the carbon in the wood for many years to come making it a sustainable, renewable, carbon-rich resource, supporting initiatives across Wales to build homes for people.

In 2022 the Welsh Government committed £1.5m of funding to Powys County Council, to run a 3 year project called Home-Grown Homes project delivered by Wood Knowledge Wales.

Gary Newman, CEO of Wood Knowledge Wales said:

The project aims to create a more climate resilient future for Wales by expanding the use of home-grown timber in social housing to accelerate decarbonisation of the natural and built environments.
The project is exploring innovations in forest management, wood processing, timber manufacturing and house construction to ensure more timber from the Welsh forest is used in the construction of high performance, low carbon homes.
The wins are substantial. Using more home-grown timber for construction reduces carbon emissions, provides green jobs in timber manufacturing, and further improves the case for expanding Welsh forestry.
The outputs from the Home-Grown Homes project, in the form of case studies, tools and guidance are feeding into the development of Welsh Government’s first Timber Industrial Strategy. This strategy will ensure that timber grown by Natural Resources Wales will play an increasingly important role in supporting the transition to a resilient low carbon economy.

The future of productive Welsh forestry

Welsh forests are an inspiring resource and timber production contributes to a prosperous timber processing and forestry sector and is recognised as a key contributor to a healthy rural economy and sustainable forest and natural resource management in Wales. 

Welsh Ministers have committed to creating a timber-based industrial strategy that can develop and sustain the high-value production and processing of Welsh wood. . The strategy will cover many aspects of a sustainable forest industry, promoting an exciting vision for forestry in Wales.

The Timber strategy will focus on how we can support the supply chain, from nurseries right through to the end-use of the timber.   In doing so, the aim is to grow the value of the sector in Wales, moving towards higher value timber products, produced in Wales, making the greatest contribution possible to help us meet the 2050 net zero target. 

This will include working with academia and industry to optimise next generation solutions for timber in construction, using Welsh wood structurally and for in applications, such as for thermal efficiency in wood fibre insulation. The focus is set to support the revolutionary changes needed to influence how productive forests are managed, supporting local and National markets.

The running theme is the importance of productive forestry. Productive forestry set proudly in the context of multipurpose forest management for wildlife, biodiversity, recreation, tourism, health and well-being.

The UK was still the third largest net importer (imports less exports) of forest products in 2021, behind China and the USA[1]. In Wales, the aim is to enable the continued management of existing forests for sustainable timber production, while encouraging the creation of new, resilient, productive forests to accommodate growing demand.

With more emphasis on developing the forest industry, it is vitally important to recruit and retain a skilled forestry workforce. Alongside the Timber Industrial Strategy, a skills plan will identify skills development and training opportunities, promoting all aspects of forestry as vibrant careers, open to all. From growing tree seedlings to managing forests, from hauling timber to mills to be processed and supplied to innovative product design. All this to support a vibrant wood economy at the heart of Wales.

Find out more about International Day of Forests on the United Nations  website. 

[1] Forestry Statistics and Forestry Facts & Figures - Forest Research

Explore more

Newsletter sign up

Sign up to receive monthly updates from Natural Resources Wales