Scottish National Party (SNP) ministers have admitted to felling close to 16 million trees to make room for wind farms on public land after the Scottish government plans to get all of its power from renewable energy this year.
Mairi Gougeon, the Rural Affairs Secretary, conceded that around 15.7 million trees have been cleared since 2000 from areas presently managed by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). The figures equate to over 1,700 trees felled daily, in what critics have described as a hypocritical eco-crusade.
Despite this, Gougeon insisted on a planning presumption in favour of protecting woodland, expecting wind farm developers to undertake “compensatory planting elsewhere.”
However, Scottish Tory MSP Liam Kerr expressed astonishment at the figures, citing worries voiced by “communities all over the country.”
The SNP’s target includes replacing existing turbines with even taller and larger ones. Some developers are even proposing turbines up to 850 feet tall, equivalent to more than 60 double-decker buses.
In a letter to Mr. Kerr, Ms. Gougeon detailed that around 7,858 hectares of trees had been felled to make way for wind farms, estimating a total of 15.7 million trees.
She claimed that many were part of commercial crops that would have been felled eventually, but Mr. Kerr responded that most people would be “astonished” by the numbers and raised concerns over visual impact, wildlife damage, and harm to businesses.
From Herald Scotland:
Steve Micklewright, CEO of Trees for Life, said: “It seems deeply ironic that trees are being felled to make way for windfarms when both healthy growing forests and renewable energy are important in resolving the global climate emergency.
“Woodlands that are ancient or of high conservation value should not suffer from mass felling because other rare and endangered plants and animals can be lost too. In other locations, such as plantations where the trees would have been harvested anyway, a pragmatic approach would be to ensure the timber is used for buildings or other uses that will not release the carbon stored in the trees back into the atmosphere.”
Lyndsey Ward, a Highlands wind farm activist, said: “Not only are millions of CO2 absorbing trees being felled for turbines, hundreds of thousands of acres of ancient carbon-holding peat are being dug up too.
“These figures are astronomical enough, but if you add in the infrastructure requirements and grid connections, many more trees will have been sacrificed and peat lost as remote wind factories are connected to a grid that cannot cope with them.”
The Scottish Government has pledged to cover more than one fifth of Scotland’s land area with trees by 2032 in a bid to help tackle the clime emergency.