Despite wide recognition of their value, plantation forests are critically misunderstood and undervalued in Wales. Plantation forests comprise around 7% of the planet’s forest area whilst sustainably supplying over 50% of industrial roundwood. This report looks at myths and tropes around home-grown timber and considers research results from wood science and socio-economic aspects across planting, forest management, timber grading and processing.

Modern British sustainable forest management techniques were established 150 years ago and are still appropriate for efficiently growing construction grade softwoods. Exemplar stands of high grade Douglas fir in north Wales grow some of the largest conifer trees existing in Europe. Older conifer stands across Wales have great potential to produce high grade joinery softwood. Sitka spruce forests are routinely denigrated, nevertheless over 95% of Welsh spruce sawlogs can be graded to strength class from C16 to C27 because of Sitka spruce’s high strength to weight ratio. Yet, quality is regularly used as a weasel word in order to reinforce negative views about Welsh homegrown softwoods.

The FAO reported in 2013 that current trends in European forest management could result in an over-supply of wood from broadleaved species, as well as a shortfall of coniferous timber. Planted forests are exposed to socio-economic risks due to governance failures. These risks comprise a weak or inadequate forest policy framework including insecure investment conditions.