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A woodland owners' association


D.B. CRAWFORD is regional officer of the South-West of Scotland Woodland Owners' Association.

Experience in Scotland with private forestry

THE CURRENT reorganization of the Forestry Commission of Great Britain, whose new part-time chairman is essentially a businessman and President of the National Association of British Manufacturers, lends topicality also to progress in private forestry in the United Kingdom.

It was the Forestry Commission that in 1956 convened a committee to examine the position of state forestry in relation to private woodland owners, especially in the context of the marketing of forest products (1).

This committee recommended the setting up of "a strong and effective association of private woodland owners," and, as a result, by 1959 the Timber Growers' Organization had been formed for England and Wales, and the Scottish Woodland Owners' Association for Scotland.

Scotland in 1959 was already served by a national Co-operative Forestry Society, and the Association, on formation, took over this co-operative and its regional organizations. The southwest region covered four counties (Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire) for which the staff consisted of three professional foresters who provided management and trading facilities for 96 members, of which 81 were woodland owners and the rest timber users or forestry contractors.

The southwest region accounts for approximately 11 percent of the woodland acreage of Scotland and a similar proportion of the total land area. It has a well-established tradition of forest management due to the example set over a long period by large private estates, and the more recent influence of the state forestry service. The "Scottish eclectic" thinning method (2) was developed in this area by the state forests' conservator, and private estates have pioneered on a commercial scale species such as Sitka spruce and Japanese larch which have subsequently, as the result of later state and private forest planting, become major coniferous species in the United Kingdom.

In comparison with the rest of the country the private woodlands contain a high proportion of mixed broadleaf and coniferous woodland and pure broadleaf woodlands, mainly oak. The chief coniferous species are Sitka spruce, Norway spruce, Japanese larch, Douglas fir and Scots pine.

During two world wars a large acreage of private woodlands was felled. This exploitation is illustrated by Table 1, taken from the 1947-49 census of woodlands (3):






20 044

(8 111)


5 532

(2 238)


14 176

(5 736)

39 752

(16 087)






12 062

(4 881)


1 384



21 671

(8 770)

35 117

(14 211)


75 105

(30 395)

Of the 75,000 acres (30,350 hectares), the census classified 64,300 acres (26,000 hectares) as suitable for economic management.

Development of the Scottish woodland owners' association

The activities of the new association were developed on two apparently distinct lines, covering management and trading activities. The two functions, however, in practice tend to be interdependent. For example, the Association's representation and information services are greatly assisted by the information and experience gained in the management and trading fields.


A regional committee, consisting of 12 members, was formed in 1959 to manage the affairs of the region and send three representatives to the National Board of the Association in Edinburgh. The technical and part-time clerical staff of the area co-operative were taken over together with their office. The chief technical officer of the co-operative, subsequently named the regional officer, served as the new committee's secretary.

The regional committee was made up of elected members from each of the four counties in the region. In addition to elected members, the committee now co-opts members with special knowledge, and the present coopted strength includes a Member of Parliament, a representative of the National Farmers' Union, and an official of a professional land agents' organization, the Chartered Surveyor's Institute.

The technical staff were either university or forestry school trained and the senior, the regional officer, also trained in commercial management. The office was new and well equipped. Though the work and services provided by the staff expanded considerably, no additional technical staff was added up to the end of 1964, but the office staff increased from one part-time assistant to the equivalent of two full-time assistants.


Activities under this heading take place at both regional and national level, At national level this function is developed over a wide field, including contact with government departments and the major national timber organizations. At the local regional level, however, representation has been chiefly with:

(a) County councils (regional plans, housing, etc.).
(b) Forestry Commission via a joint liaison committee.
(c) South of Scotland Forestry Publicity Committee.
(d) Farm (and Forest) Safety Committee.
(e) Timber industry.

Perhaps the most important field has been the representation and negotiations in respect of timber marketing and liaison with the local state forestry service. The local committee also acts for the Association's national organization in respect of marketing negotiations with a major chipboard company, and a new pulpmill scheduled to start production in 1966.

The information services have received special attention. A major service is the issue of a quarterly newsletter covering a general review of both the national and local timber market and individual comments on the sawlog, pulpwood, chipboard, pitwood, wood wool, turnery and veneer markets. The newsletter also deals with government aid, labor, new methods, plants equipment, tools, chemicals and forest education. In addition to the newsletter, circulars and technical notes are issued at frequent intervals covering a variety of matters of concern to woodland owners. Members can also write or telephone the association office for information. Press and television media are fully exploited, chiefly from the public relations aspect.

A further aspect of these essential functions is the development of education courses for members, the chief of which are work rationalization courses for both management and workers. These courses were inspired by those offered at the Bosbouwpraktijkschool, Arnhem, Netherlands, which were studied with the help of the International Labour Organisation Fellowship Scheme. The Association's courses started in 1961 (4) and, since it was believed that management must first be converted to work rationalization, the initial courses were restricted to management, and over one hundred woodland owners, land managers and woodland managers were given training before workers' courses were introduced. One feature of the courses is that the syllabus is identical for both management and workers, but whereas the new working methods are demonstrated to management, the workers actually perform them under forest conditions. A further feature of these courses is that workers as well as management undertake work study exercises because it is believed that, having removed the mysteries of work study, the worker will more readily accept piecework and bonus schemes.

FIGURE 1. - A sheep farmer and Scottish Woodland Owners' Association contractor watch a load of chipwood being checked before departure to a chipboard factory. The farmer 14 acres (5.7 hectares) of woodland which are comprehensively managed for him by the Scottish Woodland Owners' Association.

All the essential functions are paid for by members via an annual subscription which works out at £1 ($2.80) for each 25 acres (10 hectares) of woodland owned up to a maximum subscription of £200 ($560).


Mention has already been made that the Association serves an area with a long tradition of forestry management. The proportion of private woodlands under management can be assessed by the fact that currently over two thirds of the acreage is managed under the Government's Dedication of Woodlands Scheme or Approved Woodlands Scheme. Any woodlands without formal management plans in 1959 were mainly those under 500 acres (200 hectares) in extent.

Despite this generally favorable approach to forest management by woodland owners, they have nevertheless been faced with many difficulties arising from shortages of capital, skilled management and skilled labor, and marketing problems.

A problem facing most woodland owners in the area was brought about by the last war. Due to compulsory fellings, sold under a controlled price system at values as low as one third of the world price levels, many private owners failed to recoup the capital element when selling their timber. The financial situation was subsequently aggravated by the fact that the postwar shortage of labor and plants delayed the replanting of war fellings, and planting began when labor costs, which at the time accounted for about 80 percent of the cost of planting, were twice the mid-war level. The Government made some effort to return the capital, but the grant offered represented only about one quarter of the cost of large plantings and less than one tenth of the cost of very small schemes. Replanting of war fellings has therefore been chiefly financed from current fellings or, if no mature timber remained, with capital from nonwoodland sources. Because of this only very few woodland properties have yielded any income during the postwar years.

The staff problem has also been widely felt. The medium and small woodlands carried an additional burden in this context due to the size factor. Thus, even if labor was available, the smallholder could not find sufficient work to justify the full-time employment of even one man, while the economic labor force of a medium-size holding was often inadequate during the peak working periods when, due to climate and growth, only a short period of time is available for operations such as planting and weeding.

The marketing difficulties resulted from a number of factors including a fluctuating demand from the chief timber-consuming industries, including sawmills. Some of the adverse factors, however, could be partly or completely overcome by co-operative action among the growers. For example, demand generally was moving toward the specialized parcel so that parcels of mixed species or mixed sizes were becoming increasingly difficult to sell. Also, for economic reasons, buyers were losing interest in small parcels of standing timber. Both these factors could be substantially solved by the delivered sale technique, organized on a co-operative basis.

FIGURE 2. - A worker undertaking time studies of a fellow worker during a work rationalization course for workers. Instruction is provided by Scottish Woodland Owners' Association staff and officers of the state Forestry Commission.

Thus members' needs were (a) services aimed at increasing revenue and reducing costs, and (b) labor, together with skilled supervisory staff. The first group consisted chiefly of planning, marketing and work rationalization courses, while the second group necessitated the provision of forestry contractors under the supervision of the Association's technical staff. Together they stood for increased replanting of devastated woodlands, the extension of the woodlands by afforestation and increased productivity of existing woodlands.

With the staff and organization of a regional cooperative to form the foundation, the services offered expanded rapidly. The extent of the expansion is shown in Table 2.

The services developed by 1964 were as follows:

Management service

This service varies considerably from responsibility for planning and timber sales, but no day-to-day supervision, to complete management including the supervision of resident labor or the provision of contract labor and the maintenance of a woodland banking account. Table 3 illustrates the use now being made of this service by the various size categories:




No. of estates using

Volume of timber sold (Hoppus feet)1

Cubic meters

Sales of plants (Thousands)1

General trading (Index)

management services

advisory services

1959 (CFS)




79 208

(2 850)



1964 (SWOA)




631 920

(22 750)

2 113


Percentage increase

+ 159

+ 24

+ 233

+ 698

+ 147


1 1 Hoppus foot = 1.27 cubic feet or 0.036 cubic meter.


Woodland category

Total number of members

Members using management services











over 500

over 200



The underlying strength of this service is a dedicated but independent group of contractors who work full time for the Association. These contractors have been developed by the technical staff of the Association and have now up to 10 years' experience on some woodland properties under management. They are generally able to provide a comprehensive service including planting and maintenance, and, because of their knowledge of the Association's contracts and specifications, are able fully to exploit the thinnings and fellings of members' woodlands.

Advisory service

Included in this service are annual consultative visits, preparation or revision of working plans, and preparation of a 20-year yield forecast with the first five years covered by a forecast of output by species and size. During 1964 a total of 52 members used these advisory services.

Timber sales

The 1964 output of timber from all private estates was estimated at 1.25 million Hoppus feet (45,000 cubic meters). As a proportion of this was used by the members for estate purposes, it will be seen that, by disposing of 631,920 Hoppus feet (22,750 cubic meters) in 1964, the Association marketed over 50 percent of the annual production.

Approximately half of the timber is now sold standing and the balance delivered to sawmills, a pulpmill, chipwood factories, a wood wool factory and turnery (bobbins, handles and brush backs) factories. For the delivered sale the Association negotiates quarterly, half-yearly or annual contracts and up to 22 different members may service any one of these contracts. The delivered sale service began initially for small lots (farm timber) of between 500 and 2,000 Hoppus feet (18 and 72 cubic meters) which were of no interest to the timber trade as standing parcels and would have remained unsold without such a service. Today, however, many of the medium and large woodlands have joined the delivered sale contracts since the financial return is normally higher than that realized by the more traditional standing sale.

To aid marketing, the Association undertakes produce standardization research, an example of which is a standard length (6 feet 6 inches, or 2 meters) for three different contracts covering sawlogs, chipwood and wood wool. The Association also maintains regular contracts with the major users of timber within economic delivery range of its members' woodlands.


Apart from a substantial rise in the sale of transplants and seedlings, the Association has increased sales of hand tools, power saws, fencing wire, netting and chemicals. The Association undertakes trials of new tools and equipment, for manufacturers and makes recommendations for improving existing tools and equipment. This type of co-operation is also extended to chemical manufacturers by testing new chemicals under forest conditions. The latest development is bulk buying, whereby members group together and place a joint order through the Association, for delivery to one of the group from whom the rest subsequently collect their merchandise.

Miscellaneous services

The major work in this section is the production of reports on a variety of subjects including timber valuations, forestry investment, legal and insurance matters. A recent development, inspired by a service provided by the Münchehof Forestry School in Lower Saxony, provides a forest owner with a report suggesting ways of improving the general organization and productivity of his forest together with recommendations for improving the skill of his forest workers and supervisory staff by training.


The membership holdings are divided into three categories: small - 100 acres (40 hectares) and less; medium - 101 to 500 acres (40 to 200 hectares); large over 500 acres (200 hectares). The pattern of services provided for each category is broadly as follows:

Small. A comprehensive management service is offered, including the provision of labor via approved contractors. The Association supervises these skilled contractors who undertake planting, general maintenance, thinning and felling. In respect of marketing, virtually all the timber or Smallwood cut is marketed through the Association(5).

Medium. As estates in this group may have labor or skilled supervision, the management services provided for this group are very variable and range from the comprehensive type to responsibility for planning and marketing, but with no day-to-day responsibility. Here again it is customary for members using such services to market their entire output of timber and smallwood through the Association.

FIGURE 3. - A member and a technical officer of the Association who acts as the woodland skilled supervisor inspect a stand of Douglas fir (Menziesii taxifolia), a species which grows well in the southwest of Scotland.

Large. As most of the estates in this group possess both labor and skilled supervision, this group uses mainly the advisory and marketing services. These are:

(a) consultant facilities, either in the form of an annual visit to consider the woodland program for the year ahead or visits to deal with specific problems;

(b) preparation and revision of the plans of operation required for the Forestry Commission's Dedication of Woodlands Scheme;

(c) provision of short- and long-term forecasts of yield;

(d) timber marketing facilities for either part or the whole of their output.

Management advisory and timber marketing services are paid for by members either on a time or commission basis, while trading is financed by surcharging the wholesale price to cover costs and allow a margin for research work in respect of tools, equipment and chemicals.

Future expansion

Plans for immediate expansion have been initiated necessitating the addition of a further graduate forester. On the whole, the prospects for further expansion are good, though much will depend on the attitude of the Government of the United Kingdom to forestry and, in particular, to private forestry; the development and expansion of suitable markets for timber and smallwood; and the arrest of rural depopulation in order to stabilize the rural labor force.

One obvious field of development is the smallholder. In the United Kingdom, approximately 25 percent of the private woodland acreage belongs to owners with 100 acres (40 hectares) or less and only a small proportion are intensively managed and fully productive (4). Though the percentage under management in the southwest of Scotland is above average, the following unit analysis prepared from data made available by the Forestry Commission illustrated the scope for expansion among the smaller woodland units.


Over 500 acres (200 hectares)

101-500 acres (40-200 hectares)

100 acres and under (40 hectares)

Total units (1962)




Association membership (1964)








Today, most of the smallholder members are within easy reach of the Association's office or in areas where the density of holdings permits grouping. In both cases the Association can provide a management service at little or no loss to the Association. If these services are extended to holdings at present outside the Association, some form of financial assistance will be needed. One way would be to increase charges to existing members and use the extra funds as a subsidy for a service to smallholders, but this would tend to defeat the overall object of the Association. The sensible way would be a direct government subsidy. As early as 1953 FAO presented the case for assistance for the smallholder as a means of increasing national and European timber production (6 and 7) and today, in addition to the urgent need for increased timber production, the case is strengthened by the fact that the woodland smallholder is substantially responsible for the sylvan aspect of our landscape but, due to the economic difficulties, he is unable to maintain his trees or replace them when felled. This amenity factor, one feels, will sooner or later decide the issue. The cost of such aid is negligible when compared with the landscape likely to develop from a purely economic forest policy. Such a policy would result in substantial blocks of industrial forest, chiefly conifer, with large areas of land in between devoid of single trees and small woods. Aid for the smallholder could also facilitate the integration of farming with forestry, the desirability of which has already been explained in an earlier issue of Unasylva (8).

Timber marketing is also an obvious field for expansion. The Association began marketing at a time when sections of the timber users in the country were complaining of unsatisfactory marketing arrangements. As the marketing undertaken for members expanded, the Association changed from an occasional seller of standing timber to a timber supply agency providing regular supplies of both standing and delivered round timber. As this transformation accelerated complaints by timber buyers became less frequent, and today buyers are relying increasingly on the Association for assistance with their supply problems, while small timber users have found it satisfactory to depend on the Association to provide the bulk of their requirements. Thus the stage has been reached where the Association can benefit both grower and consumer, a situation which should further improve by expansion..

Finally, past development has been aided by the sympathetic and co-operative attitude of the state foresters and continuance of these good relations will undoubtedly help future expansion. Relations with the state foresters were Somewhat strained in the early years of the Co-operative Forestry Society because at that time many of the services offered by the society, for example, preparation of woodland plans and marking of thinnings, were being provided free of charge by the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission, however, gradually withdrew these services and eventually, by restricting its free services entirely to advisory work, it allowed and indeed encouraged the society and eventually the Association to expand its management services. Today, relations between the Association and the Forestry Commission can be described as excellent, and both are united in their efforts to develop and expand the woodlands of the region, regardless of whether these are rooted in state or private soil.


(1) UNITED KINGDOM, FORESTRY COMMISSION. 1956. Report of the Committee on Marketing of Woodland Produce. London, H.M.S.O.

(2) MACDONALD, J.A.B. 1961. The simple rules of the 'Scottish eclectic' thinning method. Scottish Forestry, 15: 220-226.

(3) UNITED KINGDOM. FORESTRY COMMISSION. 1953. Census report No. 4. Scottish county details. London, H.M.S.O.

(4) CRAWFORD, D.B. 1961. Rationalisation of forestry work. Scottish Forestry, 15: 143-151.

(5) CRAWFORD, D.B. 1962. The management of small private woodlands with special reference to the problems of regeneration and rotation. Report of Discussion Meeting, Society of For esters of Great Britain, 2: 56-63.

(6) FAO. 1953. National forest policies in Europe. Rome.

(7) FAO. 1953. European timber trends and prospects. Geneva.

(8) GILL, Tom. 1963. Forests and farmers. Unasylva, 17 (2): 64-67.

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