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Forestry group learn skills from Austria

28 September 2011

Over 100 forestry businesses are coming together at the top of Aonach Mor at Nevis Range on Thursday evening for a Highlands and Islands Forest Industry Cluster (HIFIC) event.

The meeting will focus on information gathered from a study tour earlier in the year when a group went out to specifically learn about steep ground working practices in Austria.

There are large areas of standing timber in the Highlands and Islands in particularly challenging locations which are now ready for harvest and will make an important contribution to the local timber supply chain. As the market is developing and the price of timber continues to rise, it is now becoming more economically viable to consider harvesting from some of Scotland's harder-to-access areas.

Neil Stoddart, chairman of HIFIC said "There are significant volumes of mature timber in very difficult to access sites across the Highlands and Islands. There are limited skills and expertise within the sector to enable safe and cost effective harvesting of these areas. It is absolutely vital that this timber comes into the supply chain to meet the growing demand for fibre in both the processing and biomass sectors."

Presenting at the event is Casey Keller, who has recently joined Scottish Woodlands Ltd as a harvesting manager. Casey is originally from Arkansas but has spent the last 11 years working in Northern California. He has significant knowledge and expertise of harvesting in steep ground conditions.

Andrew Patience of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said "It is really encouraging to see so many people from the industry turning out for this event and it illustrates the importance of steep ground harvesting in the Highlands and Islands. With the increasing demand for fibre, the added bonus of steep ground harvesting is that it will create opportunities in the supply chain and jobs in many rural locations."

HIE provide the majority of funding for HIFIC activities with the remainder being sourced from private sector sponsorship. This event is being sponsored by Highland Forestry Ltd and Hawco Group, who will have a range of commercial and 4x4 vehicles on display at Nevis Range for the duration of the event.

The Highlands and Islands Forest Industry Cluster aims to promote good practice, raise awareness of common issues, increase co-operation within the forest industry and look for innovation to improve efficiency. Established in 2005, the cluster has delivered over 16 events throughout the region with over 550 attendees from the sector.

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