Steve Lee, who has recently retired from Forest Research, has been awarded an OBE for his expertise in tree breeding in the UK.
His work began with establishing and analysing field trials to determine the genetic quality of superior trees selected as being best suited for commercial coniferous forestry in the UK. Over the years, the research led to the establishment of seed orchards and supply of seed for the widely successful vegetative propagation programme. Steve’s leadership in pushing forward the tree breeding programme and promoting awareness of choice of planting stock has led to almost 100 per cent of the Sitka spruce and commercial Scots pine grown today being of improved stock.
In more recent years, Steve has advised and supported woodland owners in making improvements to broadleaved species, such as oak, silver birch and ash, and has led partnerships with local authorities, charities, universities and the private sector to identify ash trees which are resilient to Chalara (ash dieback). He also established the Conifer Breeding Coop, which today represents the majority of partners responsible for establishing Britain’s next generation of forests.
Steve Lee said:
"I'm very proud to receive this Award in recognition of my contribution to tree breeding in Britain. Tree breeding is a team business, and also a very long-term business. The programme would not have made the advances it has on my watch, if it weren't for the foresight and skill of past tree breeders and current field staff and support officers. Every hectare of Sitka spruce planted today will yield 25% more volume and far more construction grade timber than the same piece of ground planted just 25 years ago. Progress is also being made with improving the quality of broadleaved planting stock and establishing trials design to select disease-resistant ash trees. That's all a marvellous achievement for everybody involved in British tree breeding which this Award recognises. Thank you."
Steve is also active in the arts in his adopted home-town of Peebles, where he is regularly involved in topical comedy shows, the profits from which are used to encourage young people to pursue their artistic dreams.