A new partnership is working together to reduce rural crime and anti-social behaviour within Galloway’s forests.
Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES), contractors and Police Scotland have teamed up for the ‘Forest Watch’ initiative.
The main aim of the initiative is to continue the work that began earlier in the year to make the forests a safe place to work and visit.
FES staff and the many contractors who work in the forest have been keeping a close eye on any suspicious activity and have challenged it or reported it to the Police.
Keith Muir, of Forest Enterprise Scotland said: “Rural crime and anti-social behaviour affects many areas of the countryside and our forests are no different.
“Over the years, both our contractors and staff have been affected in one way or another – mainly by theft or vandalism. Not only is this an obvious drain on resources, it also has serious implications for the safety of people working in the forest, especially as many contractors are working alone with heavy machinery.
“We’ve met with the contractors and Police to increase our efforts and develop better reporting of incidents and activities that are suspicious. We would of course ask the public to also be our eyes and ears and report any unusual activity to the Police.”
Forest Enterprise Scotland is already running a visitor safety campaign on the National Forest Estate, warning of the dangers that heavy forestry machinery can pose. The Forest Watch campaign builds on this further as vandalism or theft of equipment can be a life threatening situation for those working these machines.
The new Forest Watch signs will be appearing to make it very clear that all those working in the forests are watching and reporting.
Forest Enterprise Scotland is now engaging with the Forestry Contracting Association to take the lead on behalf of the active and very busy contractors to ensure this is an ongoing campaign similar to that of the very successful neighbourhood watch.
Tim Malyon, Director the Forestry Contractors Association added: “Forestry contractors use equipment that varies from simple hand held tools to massive and very expensive machines.
“Unlike farmers or construction companies, whose operations are in fixed locations, tree-harvesting, ploughing and drainage contractors must regularly move their equipment from site to site, often many miles apart.
“It is not practical or even encouraged, for these contractors to establish secure compounds. Thus where contractor’s machinery is too big ‘to take home’, it is left on site – often unattended. Unattended equipment can be stolen or vandalised.
“Theft of timber is also an issue. Where contractors are only paid on production, theft of timber harvested, extracted and stacked at roadside, amounts to theft of the contractor’s wages.
“The FCA applaud the establishment of the Forest watch Initiative, and will participate fully.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The importance of working with partner agencies in the fight against rural crime cannot be underestimated.
“We welcome input from organisations such as Forest Enterprise Scotland and the Forestry Contracting Association assisting us in the promotion of such campaigns. This shows a positive approach as we work towards reducing incidents of rural thefts and vandalism and enhances our overarching aim of Keeping People Safe throughout our wider rural areas.”