Exploring the impact of a growing market for woodfuel on sustainable forest management in the Cairngorms National Park
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Wood has been used as a source of energy by humans for millennia. However, in Britain this ancient fuel is being rebranded as a twenty-first century source of energy; renewable, sustainable, carbon ‘lean’ and secure (Warren, 2009). The credentials of wood as fuel have been enshrined in renewable energy and climate change related policies at European, national and local levels and the benefits of producing woodfuel are being espoused by a raft of organisations within the forestry and land management sector. In 2010 the Cairngorms National Park Authority initiated a strategy to encourage the development of a local woodfuel market on the premise that it would bring a range of environmental, economic and social benefits to the area. This dissertation explores the ways in which the woodfuel market is seen to be contributing to the objectives of sustainable forest management within the Cairngorms National Park. The research conducted highlights a range of positive effects, including income generation, employment opportunities, enhanced skills and capabilities, improved community relations and the creation of an incentive to extend the area of forest under active management. However, a few issues of concern were raised in relation to the specific regional and environmental context. These include increased theft of wood, uncertainties about the ecological impact of increased biomass recovery from woodlands and the challenges associated with small-scale production on community woodlands in the area.