A DRIVE to plant millions of trees in Forth Valley has been hailed by the cabinet secretary for rural affairs.

Mairi Gougeon, MSP, said she hopes the Forth Climate Forest will improve the lives of people in Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Falkirk.

The initiative, led by the University of Stirling, aims to see 16 million trees planted across the three council areas over the next 10 years.

The campaign was kicked off in November, with Clackmannanshire Council leader Ellen Forson on site to plant some new trees at Wimpy Park.

Ms Gougeon said: “This project is a great example of many partners working closely together to help tackle climate change and improve the lives of people living and working in Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling.

“The important woodland work will involve communities, boost tree cover in the region, connect the network of native woodlands and increase the opportunities for carbon sequestration.

“I am very pleased that the project will expand woodland greenspace in areas of higher deprivation and at risk from the impacts of climate change.

“If we can connect people with their local greenspace, it can really help transform their lives in a very positive way.

“I wish the Forth Climate Forest every success for the future.”

A reception event was also held for Forth Climate Forest stakeholders, including joint funders Clacks, Stirling and Falkirk councils, Scottish Forestry and Woodland Trust Scotland.

The project is a partnership initiative, hosted by the University of Stirling as part of the £214 million Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal.

Doug Worrall, director of Forth Climate Forest, said: “We were delighted to welcome the cabinet secretary to the University of Stirling to join our discussion about how the Forth Climate Forest will help communities adapt to the effects of climate change, create places where wildlife can thrive and make a significant contribution towards the Scottish Government’s national tree planting targets.

“The event was a great opportunity for organisations who are already involved in creating the Forth Climate Forest to showcase the work they have been doing across Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Falkirk council areas, and for others to find out how they can contribute to achieving this tree planting goal.”