The Cairngorms National Park contains some of the most extensive tracts of native woodland in Britain and our biggest native pine forests. These native pine forests are at the western end of a chain of pine and spruce woodland spreading right across northern Europe.  Forests in the Park have been managed for timber for many hundreds of years. Commercial records of exported timber date back to the 17th century, but were no doubt being cut for timber much earlier than this. Huge volumes of timber were floated down the Spey in the 19th century and the forests were also extensively harvested during both World Wars.  This history of harvesting combined with historically high levels of grazing by livestock and deer and fire mean that the forest is smaller than its natural extent. In particular there is only one place in the Park where the forest grows up to its natural altitudinal limit ie the height on the hillside where climate and soils combine to stop tree growth.

Current status of forestry

Forests cover 20% of the Cairngorms National Park. These forests have many functions, including:
  • A place where many plants and animals live.
  • A habitat network which allows species to move through the landscape.
  • Carbon storage and carbon absorption where forests are expanding.
  • A source of valuable timber and fuel products which support incomes and jobs.
  • An asset for communities as places to enjoy outdoor recreation.
  • An attraction for visitors.
Future challenges for forestry
  • Maintaining incomes and employment from timber.
  • Developing wood fuel markets with an efficient supply chain.
  • Increasing connectivity of the woodland habitat network.
  • Developing forests which grow up to the natural tree line in certain targeted areas.
  • Promoting the value of forests as tourism assets.