Gold Medal for ‘builder of bridges’ between conservation and commercial forestry

Date Issued: 30 April 2012
Dr Keith Kirby, left, receives his Gold Medal for Distinguished Services to Forestry from RFS President Nick Halsey

One of the UK’s best known woodland ecologists, Dr Keith Kirby, has joined an elite rank of ‘Forestry Greats’ by being presented with the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Gold Medal. The award, for Distinguished Services to Forestry, was presented at a joint RFS/Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) conference examining the value of woodlands on 23 April 2012.

RFS President Nick Halsey said: “Dr Kirby has always recognised the need for woods to make money if they are to survive. He has been a consistent builder of bridges between the conservation and commercial interests of forestry management. As a result, we think he has made an enormous contribution towards promoting a mutual understanding of these problems, and this has been considerably to the advantage of woodland managers.”

Dr Kirby has worked with the Government conservation service – the Nature Conservancy Council (1979–1991) and its successor bodies, including English Nature (1991–2006) – and recently retired from Natural England. He was also part of the secretariat supporting the Independent Panel on Forestry that was set up after the controversial proposals to sell of parts of the public forest estate in England. Over the years Dr Kirby has written and co-authored a number of authoritative books, journal articles and papers on all aspects of woodland ecosystems and on how they can be assessed and valued.

Receiving the Gold Medal, Dr Kirby said: “It is an honour to receive this medal, really for being lucky enough to have had a career in forestry. It is great that the conservation and commercial sectors have come so much closer over the past 30 years and I am grateful for the support in this from staff in the Forestry Commission in particular.

“Trees and woods have never been more important to our future; we need more of them, and to look after those we have. If I have been a builder of bridges, it has worked because there has been someone else building on the other side to meet in the middle!”

The RFS Gold Medal is awarded only rarely to recognise those people who have made an outstanding contribution to forestry in all its aspects, from theoretical research and practical silviculture to the production and use of wood and timber-related products.

Dr Kirby’s nomination was put forward by the RFS Oxon-Bucks Division. Just 16 other Gold Medals have been awarded in the past 26 years – most recently to researcher and author Dr Peter Savill (2006), to Major David Davenport (2009), a central figure in many rural and forestry initiatives and, in 2011, to Peter Goodwin, one of the UK’s leading hardwood furniture makers