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article imageDouble boost for award-winning Scottish forest and wildlife

By Robert Myles     Oct 16, 2014 in Environment
Edinburgh - Plans to safeguard and restore Glen Affric, one of Scotland’s most iconic and beautiful glens received a double boost last weekend when conservation charity Trees for Life secured funding of almost £80,000 for new forest conservation projects.
Glen Affric, situated 15 miles west of Loch Ness in Scotland’s Highland region, is one of Scotland’s great wildlife wildernesses.
As well as being a National Scenic Area and a National Nature Reserve, Glen Affric is also a Caledonian Forest reserve and contains one of the largest ancient Caledonian pinewoods in Scotland. Its natural landscape, punctuated by lochs, moorland and mountains, is also home to many species under threat including golden eagles, Scottish wildcats and red squirrels.
The new initiatives involve planting 20,000 trees, providing opportunities for hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds to gain health benefits and conservation training and the creation of an eco-friendly wilderness base at a remote mountain bothy — the Scots term for a traditionally constructed shelter or mountain refuge.
Last Thursday, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, who holds the cabinet portfolio for Commonwealth Games and Sport, announced that Trees for Life will receive £60,000 from the Legacy 2014 Active Places Fund towards the renovation of the Athnamulloch Bothy, which lies to the west of Loch Affric on the National Forest Estate.
Trees for Life marked its 25th anniversary as a conservation charity earlier his year. It has already won numerous awards including UK Conservation Project of the Year, Millennium Marque and Top 10 Conservation Holidays worldwide.
Trees for Life is engaged in an ambitious project to restore the Caledonian Forest that once covered much of the Scottish Highlands. Centuries of deforestation with much of the land being given over to sheep grazing reduced the ancient forest to a few isolated pockets, a fraction of its former coverage.
Even now, many of these remnant forest pockets consist of old and dying trees. With the economics of modern-day agriculture, the competition from sheep in the land-use stakes may not be what was but now the remaining forest faces a threat from an over-abundance of red deer. The deer like nothing better to graze on young shoots on the forest floor, in the process preventing the forest regeneration through the growth of young trees.
Control of the red deer population has thus become part of an integrated approach to wildlife management. Under consideration is the possible reintroduction of the deer’s natural predators as part of that same approach.
The award announced by Ms. Robison came just three days after Trees for Life’s Glen Affric Landscape Project secured almost £20,000 from the prestigious European Outdoor Conservation Association, following an online public vote in which more than 4,200 people voted for the conservation charity.
Welcoming the news, Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director, said, “Securing two major funding awards within a week for our conservation initiatives is fantastic news for the ancient Caledonian Forest and its rare species, many of which are staring extinction in the face – and for the hundreds of people who will directly benefit from these reforestation projects.”
Partnering Forestry Commission Scotland, Trees for Life’s Athnamulloch Bothy Renovation Project aims to renovate a presently derelict mountain bothy. In so doing the charity aims to create a warm, weather-tight and eco-friendly wilderness base.
Athnamulloch Bothy in Glen Affric  Scotland. The bothy s presently run-down but plans are afoot for ...
Athnamulloch Bothy in Glen Affric, Scotland. The bothy's presently run-down but plans are afoot for refurbishment.
Trees for Life - by permission
Trees for Life has secured a 25-year lease of the bothy, located about as far from normal services in one of Scotland’s great wildernesses as it is possible to be. The structure will be completely refurbished and equipped with ecologically-sound solutions for the on-site provision of water supply, energy and sewerage.
Almost half the costs of bothy renovation is covered by the Legacy 2014 Active Places Fund grant with Trees for Life planning to raise the remainder themselves through public appeals and further grants. Members of the public wishing to contribute can do so via the Trees for Life website.
Trees for Life’s Glen Affric Landscape Project will again partner Forestry Commission Scotland, which manages the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, in taking steps to enhance and extend the glen’s native Caledonian pinewood. The joint project will also conserve Glen Affric’s rare forest-dependent wildlife through a range of measures including the planting of 20,000 trees, removal of non-native trees and plants, and restoration of wildlife habitats.
Glen Affric’s Caledonian Forest has a huge variety of wildlife, supporting over 1,000 animal species. The Caledonian pinewoods in the glen’s eastern reaches are one of the largest surviving core areas of native pinewood. While the area has benefited from conservation management, further action is required to expand these native woodlands westwards.
The new projects form key aspects of a planned expansion of Trees for Life’s work of rewilding this remote and beautiful part of Scotland. At the same time as improving the wildlife environment the initiatives will also create opportunities for hundreds of people to gain an insight into these local ecosystems.
As well as outdoor enthusiasts, local people and community groups, Trees for Life also encourages people from deprived situations or who may face challenges to their health to join them in projects that are both recreational and educational, helping to rewild the ancient Caledonian Forest.
The latest announcements came just days after Mr. Featherstone, accompanied by journalist, author and wildlife enthusiast George Monbiot, addressed a meeting of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and the Rewilding the World symposium in Edinburgh on the highlighting the potential benefits of rewilding, as earlier reported in Digital Journal.
As part of a proposed large-scale restoration of damaged natural ecosystems, the pair made the case for the reintroduction of apex predators such as European wolf and lynx to parts of the Scottish Highlands.
More about Trees for Life, Glen Affric, rewilding Scotland, George monbiot, caledonian forest
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