Forestry and Land Scotland is making preparations to fell 125,000 tonnes of timber from a hillside forest on east Loch Lomond-side.

A Land Management Plan outlining the long-term proposals for Ptarmigan Forest, including the removal of productive conifer and the retention and regeneration of native woodland, will be put out to public consultation next year.

However, FLS said that because the site was so complex and challenging, it was already making preliminary preparations so that if the go-ahead is given, work can begin as soon as possible. With the site being one of the most difficult in Scotland, it could still take two or three years for felling operations to start.

FLS planning manager John Hair said: “This is one of the most challenging sites we manage. As well as very steep slopes and some potential landslip areas, there are sensitive designated environmental sites and the site, being in the heart of the National Park, is part of the iconic view of Loch Lomond and also has the West Highland Way running through it.

“But we need to harvest these trees. They have grown so big that they are now highly susceptible to being blown over in high winds. If this were to happen it would have severe impacts on the environment and habitats, would impact on accessibility and would create a hazardous problem for our harvesting teams that would have to clear the site.

“It’s far better that we fell these trees in a controlled programme," said Mr Hair. "Our teams have brought their considerable experience to bear already in doing a significant amount of careful, detailed planning – and there is still a lot more work to do.”

The 450 hectare Ptarmigan Forest will see around half of its trees removed and it is likely that there will be some impact on users of the West Highland Way. FLS and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are working to minimise this impact, with safety of walkers being the key consideration throughout the period of timber harvesting.

Regeneration of the forest after felling will take place by natural regeneration (as seed falls from trees on the site) and re-planting using native trees.