Leaders of the forestry and wood-using industry recognised at biggest-ever Confor Awards Dinner

9 March 2023

Confor announced the winners of the Confor Awards 2023 as part of a ceremony at Surgeons Quarter, Edinburgh on February 28.

Future forestry leaders, great communicators and inspiring innovators were honoured alongside a dedicated servant of the industry at Confor’s largest-ever awards dinner.

There were also new awards for Professional Forester of the Year and a Net Zero prize to mark the industry's vital contribution to addressing the damaging impacts of climate change.

Graham Taylor of Pryor & Rickett Silviculture won the top award for Dedicated Service to Forestry, while Tom Barnes of Vastern Timber was the winner of the Changing Attitudes Award for his work in sharing positive and accessible videos about forestry to a wider audience.

Neil White of Scottish Woodlands Ltd won the Tom A Bruce-Jones Memorial Award for Future Leader in the Forest Industry, with BH Wildlife Consultancy and Forestry & Land Scotland scooping the Innovation & Research prize.

The first Net Zero Award went to Neil Stoddart of Creel Maritime Ltd, while Jonathan Callis MICFor of Network Rail picked up the inaugural Professional Forester of the Year Award, sponsored by the Institute of Chartered Foresters.

Scotland's Environment and Land Reform Minister Mà iri McAllan, presented the top award of the night, for Dedicated Service to Forestry, to Graham Taylor MBE, a director at Pryor & Rickett, where he has worked for 30 years.

Judges said Future Leader winner Neil White, who oversees mentoring and training on Scottish Woodlands Ltd's graduate programme, was a "rounded, confident, and highly competent senior manager". As well as working to develop younger staff, he has undertaken significant training to hone his skills while managing some of the UK’s largest forests.

Tom Barnes' work on the Wood for the Trees series of films (on forest management and resilient woodlands) was highlighted by the Changing Attitudes Award judges. He has put his own time and money into promoting greater understanding and awareness of the sector and the films have had more than 60,000 views.

Jonathan Callis MICFor, the first ICF Professional Forester of the Year, is one of the few Chartered Foresters involved in the rail industry. Judges were impressed by his pragmatic approach, work in promoting technical membership of the ICF, and active engagement with colleagues.

Neil Stoddart, the first winner of the Net Zero Award, was praised for his work in ensuring the "the industry he loves so much remains sustainable, profitable – and ultimately cleaner and greener than the day he entered it".

Judges in the Innovation & Research category were impressed by the use of aerial drone surveys, linked to wider data dashboards, to better inform deer management. The collaboration between BH Wildlife Consultancy and Forestry & Land Scotland has both improved stakeholder engagement and supported wildlife management objectives.

A special award to mark the 40th anniversary of the Scottish Forestry Trust was presented to recognise excellence in education and training. It was awarded jointly to the Royal Scottish Forestry Society for its Forest Centre at Cashel, and to The Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s Young Engineers and Science Clubs Team - and Confor - for the Climate Smarter Initiative.

"I'd like to congratulate all the worthy winners – and their fellow finalists – recognised at our biggest-ever awards dinner,” said Stuart Goodall, Confor chief executive. “These Awards showcase the amazing talent that is driving the forestry and wood industry forward. We're in great shape and stand ready, willing and able to tackle the big economic and environmental challenges ahead."

Mà iri McAllan, Scotland’s Environment and Land Reform Minister, said she was proud to have responsibility for forestry, which she described as “a thriving and successful industry looking to the future.”

“Forestry is so central to what we need to do, and government support and targets will continue to drive that,” she said. “We succeed better in facing challenges when we collaborate - and I’m committed to working with you to mitigate them, and to take all the opportunities.”

Confor would like to thank the award sponsors: Forestry Commission, Forestry & Land Scotland, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, James Jones & Sons, Scottish Woodlands Ltd and Tilhill.

Back row, from left: Anton Watson (Forestry & Land Scotland), Ben Harrower (BH Wildlife Consultancy), Neil White (Scottish Woodlands), Mà iri McAllan MSP, Neil Stoddart (Creel Maritime Ltd), Wilma Harper (Royal Scottish Forestry Society) & Eleanor O’Neill (Confor). Front row from left: Jonathan Callis (Network Rail) and Graham Taylor MBE (Pryor & Rickett Silviculture). Photo: Andy O'Brien