“If Rudolph could have a Christmas wish, he’d ask for this destruction to stop,” said Greenpeace forest campaigner Pat Venditti.

Meanwhile the Finnish Forest Association stressed the historic commitment of Finns to forestry with a release about the sacred nature of woodlands in Finnish folklore and the “spirit guardians” that protect them. Encoun-ters with some of the latter, it noted, had a “distinctly erotic flavour” (although it didn’t elaborate) and the piece ended with a quote from Finland’s “only known living gnome”.

An initial response to this jolly japing was to attribute it all to end-of-year fatigue. But you can dig a serious point out of the seasonal silliness. It highlighted that timber and forestry and the way they’re used and managed are now hot topics all year round, even when people are pre-holiday de-mob happy.

With rising environmental awareness and politicians outdoing each other in their commitment to “sustainability”, timber is the material of the moment. The risk is that harder line greens play on eco fears to convince the public that their over-restrictive take on forestry is the solution. Their stance was highlighted again by their opposition to the latest approval by the government’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber of the SFI, PEFC and CSA certification schemes as proof of timber sustainability.

The good news is that a more reasoned outlook does seem to be winning through. It may only have made a minor contribution on this front, but the balance was well struck in Michael Heseltine’s recent TV programme on British trees. His focus was the integral link between sustainable forest management and timber use, illustrated by the fact that replanting of the Forest of Dean was triggered by Nelson’s forecast that the navy would need timber to fight a war in about 1940!

Further good news is that the trade is stepping up its public relations effort to broadcast this even-handed view more widely. In fact, as our special feature from page 14 underlines, 2007 is set to be one of the most active years ever in terms of wood promotion.

Backed by new funding, the Wood for Good campaign has a wide range of activities planned and the Wood for Gold initiative to lobby for the use of timber at the 2012 London Olympics will also get into full swing. The marketing efforts of individual companies are also improving perceptions of the sector, while AHEC‘s startling ‘alien’ red oak campaign introduces a bold new strategy to get specifiers both to use more wood and a wider spread of species. I’m sure the Finnish forest gnome, for one, will be seriously impressed!