Rewilding the Highlands, Scotland

Trees for Life has the goal of restoring the Caledonian Forest, and all its constituent species of flora and fauna to the Scottish highlands. It enlists volunteers of all ages in the practical work to achieve this, and promotes the work of restoration and increased support for the return of the forest.

Trees for Life’s Rewilding the Highlands project aims to establish one of the UK’s most inspiring examples of rewilding – featuring habitat creation for endangered or rare wildlife such as golden eagle, Scottish wildcat, red squirrel and pine marten, the planting of 50,000 trees, a boost for wildlife tourism, and 10,000 rare montane tree species being grown each year to re-establish higher altitude woodlands. Centrepiece of the project is Dundreggan Conservation Estate – a ‘lost world’ biodiversity hotspot where more than 3,000 species have been discovered, including 10 found nowhere else in the UK and others that are extremely rare. The 4,000-hectare estate welcomes over 300 volunteers annually, part of an exciting 250-year vision to save Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest. Engaging with local communities is an important part of the initiative, including support to enhance biodiversity at nearby community project Glengarry Community Woodland.  This project will:
– introduce people to the concept of rewilding via planting and biodiversity skills days for the public
– involve local communities in rewilding events, including planting small groves of native trees in key places
– expand native woodland and Dundreggan and Glengarry by creating 3 new areas of native woodlands over 200 hectares and planting 50,000 trees.

The Update

– School pupils and community members have been encouraged to help collect local seed which Trees for Life will grow at the Dundreggan tree nursery before planting out in 2018/19, once ground has been left fallow for a year after the removal of non native trees.
– A tree planting day was held for pupils and local community members, extracting seeds from locally collected rowan berries and planting out small saplings in holding beds.
– One biodiversity skills day was held at Dundreggan involving 25 school children, monitoring trees in the regeneration zone and learning about deer management
– Six rewilding conservation weeks were run, focussing on working in the tree nursery preparing trees for planting and planting over 40,000 trees with the aim of planting 200,000 by 2018.
– Project Wolf – three groups of volunteers spent every night for three months patrolling the fringes of the forest to mimic the presence of wolves
– A Rewilding journey involving local communities and outdoor enthusiasts and 2 cultural events

Final update October 2017:
– A further tree planting day was held for school children, potting 150 oak trees and 50 hazel trees ready for planting at Glengarry Community Woodland.
– An additional three biodiversity skills days were held at Dundreggan, involving 85 school children. The children helped to monitor trees in the regeneration zone and carried out vegetation and invertebrate surveys. They also spent time learning about deer and deer management.
– Eight more rewilding conservation weeks were run, during which 30,339 trees were planted.
– Project Wolf continued in 2017 with volunteers spending every night for two months patrolling the forest fringe. Results from this will be produced in summer 2018.
– A further four rewilding cultural events took place and in total these events involved 347 people taking part.
All this hard work has culminated in the creation of three new areas of woodland planted with 72,320 native trees consisting of a mix of pine, birch, alder, aspen, holly, oak, bird cherry, willows hazel and rowan. A further 17,288 montane species have been grown, 15,786 of which have been planted out.
Rewilding the Highlands continues it’s hard work and is well on it’s way to achieving its target of planting 200,000 trees by the end of 2018!