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Forestry student wins national land reform award

Scottish Land Commission Chief Executive Hamish Trench pictured with National Student Award winner Heloise Le Moal.

The Scottish Land Commission has awarded an Inverness-based student a £1,000 grant to compare Scotland’s approach to community-owned woodlands with municipally owned examples found in other European countries.

Heloise Le Moal, 26, a forest management student at the University of the Highlands and Islands, will travel to France, Belgium and Switzerland as part of her research project. She will consider the municipal approach to forestry ownership and management in these countries and compare them to the community woodlands that are here in Scotland.

Heloise will research the historical development of these woodlands, how they are managed, what for and who benefits from them. She will also assess how non-private forestry connects to climate targets, at a time when land management is taking an increasingly prominent role in meeting zero carbon ambitions. Her research will build on the Commission’s theme of exploring land use decision making in the international context.

Heloise is the first recipient of the Commission’s national student award, which is open to any student studying at a Scottish academic institution to undertake a land reform-related piece of research. Research underpins the Commission’s work so that decisions and recommendations are thoroughly evidence-based, and the organisation uses a wide academic network to provide research on key land reform issues.

Hamish Trench, CEO of the Scottish Land Commission, said: “Heloise’s research connects to some very current issues for land reform in Scotland, including climate change, co-operative land ownership and local governance. Her research will add to our increasing number of international case studies that help us to stimulate new ways of thinking about land ownership and use in Scotland.

“The award is a great opportunity for students interested in land reform to work with us and explore issues, gather evidence and spark debate and understanding.”

Heloise started an HND in forestry at Inverness College UHI’s Scottish School of Forestry in 2016 before progressing onto the university’s BSc forest management degree. She was intrigued by Scotland’s community woodlands as her native France relies instead on municipal woodlands, called ‘Forets communales’. In her application she said that the consequences of climate change have spurred her on since she was 12 and sees land reform as crucial to tackling the climate crisis.

Heloise says, “I am fascinated by land reform, as the good use of land has never been as crucial to tackle climate change as now. I hope my research on municipal forests in Belgium, Switzerland and France will allow a better understanding of forest ownership and management on the continent, at a local level.

“As a young woman in forestry I am thrilled to get this chance and I am very grateful to the Scottish Land Commission.”