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Mike Libera tree planting at Glenlivet

Head forester retires after 35 years service

Not many people can as readily measure the results of their working life as Mike Libera, the outgoing Forest Manager with Crown Estate Scotland.

When he retires this month (July), he will have spent 35 years working in the forests on the Applegirth Estate and in many other Crown Estate woodlands across the UK estates, seeing countless saplings grow to full height.

It has been a versatile career, from running a commercial estate sawmill at Applegirth near Lockerbie in his earliest years, to overseeing planting of a commemorative forest for HM The Queen’s diamond jubilee at Glenlivet in north-east Scotland.

Over the years, Mike’s role expanded until he was responsible for managing the entire 5000 hectares of forestry owned by the Crown Estate in Scotland. As well as Applegirth in the south, it includes the Whitehill woodlands near Roslin on the outskirts of Edinburgh, to Glenlivet and Fochabers, both in the north-east.

Forestry practices have greatly changed in that time and a focus on sustainable management has come to the fore in recent years. Wildlife conservation has also kept Mike busy and the Applegirth Estate has played a vital role in red squirrel conservation, helping to protect the habitat from grey squirrel invasion.

Mike played a valuable role in helping the Crown Estate to achieve its woodland accreditation from the Forest Stewardship Council in 2000, and ensured this was maintained through surveillance and re-inspections in ensuing years.

Speaking of his time with the Crown Estate, Mike said:

“Thinking back, the changes in forestry practice are incredible. We once had squads of chainsaw operators who made a perfect job of felling trees, cleaning the debris and soil around the base of the trees to maximise the volume of timber taken from the site (an inch at the bottom is worth a foot at the top)! We would photocopy maps and use coloured pencils to try and give an impression of what we were trying to achieve.

“Compare this to the current availability of GIS, mapping, computers (I got my first in 1993), aerial photography, timber harvesters and processing technology - all incredible advances which have revolutionised forest management.

“Successful establishment of large restock sites in the north east has been the focus of my work over recent years, and I hope that in another 35 years, one of my successors will have the opportunity to harvest the next crop. It’s been a labour of love and one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.”

The role of Crown Estate Scotland Forest Manager will be taken up by Nick Page from 14th August. Nick has 21 years’ experience in the forestry sector, with previous roles including Forestry Contracts Manager for Atholl Estates and 11 years as a self-employed forest manager and tree inspector.

Mike was presented with a long service award at this year’s Royal Highland Show and Crown Estate Scotland wishes him well in his retirement.