The charity’s new Million More Trees campaign is a response to environmental problems including deforestation, climate change and biodiversity loss, but could also bring significant benefits to Scotland’s economy by boosting wildlife tourism.
“Establishing a million new native trees in the next five years represents a significant scaling up of our work. We have set ourselves this challenge as a response to the threats posed by environmental degradation globally and human-induced climate change,” said Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s executive director.
“At the same time it is part of a positive vision of re-establishing world-class wild landscapes rich in wildlife in Scotland. The Highlands in particular, with a lot of empty land and a low population density, is a perfect region for tree planting.
“With wildlife tourism already generating an estimated £276 million a year for the Scottish economy, it’s clear that restoring the Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to an inspiring, spectacular wilderness region of 1,000 square miles could have significant economic as well as environmental benefits for the country.”
In a report published this month, Tourism Intelligence Scotland estimated that every year over one million visits are made to Scotland to view wildlife. Launching the report, Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said that some 58 per cent of all visitors to Scotland cite the scenery and landscapes as their main reason for choosing it as a holiday destination.
Trees for Life’s plans for the next year include significant planting of native trees on the charity’s Dundreggan estate near Loch Ness; a natural regeneration project in a Caledonian Forest remnant in Glen Strathfarrar; and work to protect regenerating aspens as well as the planting of new aspen seedlings at Scatwell, to the north of Inverness.
The first tree of the Million More Trees campaign was planted at Dundreggan by Roy Dennis, Trees for Life patron and Highlands naturalist, author and presenter.
Since 1989, the charity has created 4,000 hectares of new Caledonian Forest, and has worked at 45 different locations. Amongst these emerging forests, a complex web of life is already renewing itself. Habitat restoration is making a notable impact for the wildlife of the Caledonian Forest, which includes the strawberry spider, wood ants, red squirrels, rare sawflies, ospreys and capercaillies.
In May 2012, Trees for Life reached a major milestone with the planting of its Millionth Tree by acclaimed wildlife cameraman and BBC filmmaker Gordon Buchanan.