Woodland Trust Scotland is recruiting volunteers to spot planning applications which will harm or destroy ancient trees and woodland.
George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland said: “Wherever ancient woods and trees are under threat we step up to defend them.
"We are very efficient at mobilizing once we know about a threat – but we need help to spot them first. It is no good if we only hear about a damaging proposal after councillors have voted to approve it. The Trust needs people around the country to be our eyes and ears on the ground.”
The Trust currently has 12 volunteer threat detectors in Scotland but wants to add a further ten. Most of the current volunteers are based in the central belt.
"We want to hear from people in any part of the country, but we are particularly keen to find Threat Detectors for Highland, Moray, Aberdeenshire and the Borders," he said.
Two recent cases at opposite ends of the country highlight the importance of alert tree champions.
In Inverness a row of 100-year-old oak trees faced the axe as part of road works. It was only when a local resident spotted the detail in planning papers and began protesting that Woodland Trust Scotland was alerted to the threat. Transport Scotland agreed to modify its plans to save most of the trees, following a vigorous campaign by local people backed by the Trust.
A planning application to establish a poultry unit at Begbie Wood in East Lothian was turned down by councilors after Woodland Trust Scotland mobilized its supporters in the area.
“We have to make sure we are not missing proposals like this until it is too late,” said George.
“That is why we want to nearly double our network of threat detectors who can monitor council planning applications. Then where a threat is identified they can help us gather evidence and motivate others in the area to speak out.
“Volunteer Threat Detectors will be at the forefront of protecting our dwindling ancient woodlands from further losses. It is very satisfying work and training will be given.”
Further details of the volunteer roles and how to apply can be found on theWoodland Trust website.