Deforestation of Scotland began millennia ago and by the early 20th century woodland cover was down to about 6 per cent of the total land area. A century later woodland cover had tripled. Most of the newly established forestry plantations were created on elevated land with wet peaty soils and high wind exposure, not exactly the condition in which forests naturally thrive.
Jan Oosthoek tells in Conquering the Highlands the story of how 20th century foresters devised ways to successfully reforest the poor Scottish uplands, land that was regarded as unplantable, to fulfil the mandate they had received from the Government and wider society to create a timber reserve. He raises the question whether the adopted forestry practice was the only viable means to create forests in the Scottish Highlands by examining debates within the forestry community about the appearance of the forests and their longterm ecological prospects.
Finally, Conquering the Highlands argues that the long held ecological convictions among foresters and pressure from environmentalists came together in the late 20th century to create more environmentally sensitive forestry.