Hopes of protecting and restoring a magnificent Highland glen and its rare wildlife, including golden eagles, red squirrels and Scottish wildcats, have received a major boost after conservation charity Trees for Life was named as finalist for a major European funding project, with the winner to be chosen after an online public vote.
The charity’s Glen Affric Landscape Project is in the running to secure almost £20,000 in the European Outdoor Conservation Association’s ‘Outdoor’ funding scheme, with online voting taking place over two weeks until Monday 6 October at this website.
The Trees for Life project will also create opportunities for outdoor activity and hill walking groups, local people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds to take part in practical action to help reverse the loss of native woodlands and rare wildlife in the Highlands.
“We are asking people to vote for us and help make the most of this opportunity to protect one of Scotland’s finest wilderness forests. Glen Affric has been described as the most beautiful glen in Scotland, and this is a golden opportunity to help conserve its wildlife and wild places, and to reverse centuries of forest loss,” Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director.
The Caledonian Forest at Glen Affric supports over 1,000 animal species. The pinewoods in the glen’s eastern reaches represent the largest surviving core area of native pinewood which continues to benefit from conservation management. But there is still much work to do to encourage this native woodland to expand westwards and this project will make a big contribution to achieving this.
Working in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland, which manages the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, Trees for Life aims to enhance and extend the iconic glen’s native Caledonian pinewood and conserve its rare forest-dependent wildlife through a range of activities, including the planting of 20,000 trees as well as endangered plants. Non-native trees and plants will be removed and habitats restored.
Key to this will be hands-on forest restoration training and volunteering opportunities for hundreds of people through forest skills courses, volunteer restoration days and conservation weeks.
Guided walks and leaflets will allow hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts to learn more about the Caledonian Forest and how to help conserve Scotland’s threatened habitats and species.
The project also aims to boost the local and Highland economy through a growth in visitors for nature-based tourism, hill walking and outdoor and adventure pursuits. It will lay the foundations for a longer-term initiative to create a forest habitat corridor from Loch Affric to Scotland’s west coast – leaving a lasting legacy of an expanded forest landscape and increased wildlife, transforming the experiences of outdoor users in the Highlands for future generations.
The Caledonian Forest supports a unique range of species. Once covering much of the Scottish Highlands, centuries of deforestation have reduced the forest to a fraction of its former range. Many forest remnants consist of old and dying trees, with grazing pressure by red deer preventing the growth of young trees. The remaining forests, such as in Glen Affric, are amongst our most fragile and endangered habitats.
Trees for Life is a leading conservation volunteering charity that has planted more than one million trees at dozens of sites in the Highlands. It has pledged to establish one million more trees by planting and natural regeneration by 2018, and this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary.