The appraisal of Rural Development Forestry in Scotland
Rural Development Forestry (RDF) is being widely promoted in Scotland by both policy makers and pressure groups alike. The idea behind RDF is to recognise and respond to the needs and demands of local communities for forests and forest products. Despite publications and discussion regarding the relative merits of the adoption of an RDF-style of forest management, there is a lack of empirical studies on the subject. This study develops an appraisal technique to investigate forest benefits currently provided by forestry to local communities in Scotland. It examines the future benefits which these same local communities would like to see delivered by the forest and the level of participation in forest management and decision making which they would like, in order for this to be achieved. The appraisal was achieved through surveys, conducted at four different study sites throughout Scotland. The questionnaires utilised during the surveys explored the current benefits which individual respondents derive from their local forests and those delivered to the whole community. In most cases, these were benefits associated with recreational use or amenity values of the forests. For the majority of respondents the most important benefit for the forests to provide in the future is locally based employment. However, the recreational and amenity benefits are also afforded high priority for provision in the future. A contingent valuation survey was utilised to establish the level of demand for participation in forest management and decision-making by rural residents. The results demonstrate that although a number of respondents value the idea of being consulted and having some input into this process, the majority are not in favour of the community taking on responsibility for the forests. However, there is marked variation between the localities. The study highlights a number of implications for future forest policy, if RDF is to be carried forward. One of the most significant findings of the study is the heterogeneity within and between communities and thus the flexible approach which is required for the promotion of RDF.