Mull forest links up with rewilding project

Dramatic evening light over regenerating woodland. Picture: Scotlandbigpicture.com

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A community forest on Mull could soon be a link in a chain of rewilding ‘stepping stones’ to tackle Scotland’s nature and climate crises.

Charity SCOTLAND: The Big Picture is talking to Ardura Community Forest about becoming part of a new rewilding network bringing together a diverse group of nature-rich estates, farms, crofts and community-owned land.

The Northwoods Rewilding Network will allow more of Scotland’s many smaller landholdings of 50 to 1,000 acres to play a bigger role in restoring and connecting  habitats full of life to boost declining species, tackle climate breakdown, and create new opportunities for rural communities.

The plan is that the project will complement Scotland’s major landscape-scale rewilding sites by filling in the gaps in local areas, joining together a tapestry of smaller nature recovery sites and wildlife corridors.

Northwoods hopes to expand to at least 10,000 acres within two years and so far has engaged 12 initial land partners include farms, crofts, small estates and a community woodland covering 3,500 acres between them.

Mull and Iona Community Trust’s general manager Moray Finch said: ‘We are delighted to be a part of the Northwoods Rewilding Network and hope to gain knowledge from the other partners as we begin the process of harvesting the commercial forestry and then restocking with locally sourced native trees thus allowing Ardura Community Forest to flourish as a native woodland again.’

James Nairne who is Northwoods’ project manager said the scheme wants to harness the potential of smaller landholdings coming together.

‘We need to scale-up nature restoration while highlighting the economic and social opportunities that rewilding brings for people.

‘Despite their beauty and drama, many of Scotland’s landscapes have been in ecological decline for a very long time, with many species extinct and others once prolific now teetering on the edge. Northwoods will help turn this around,’ he added.

Research in 2016 estimated that only 28 countries out of 218 have lost more biodiversity than the UK, with Scotland faring only slightly better than the UK average.

To be part of the Northwoods project, the partners will work to an agreed set of principles covering issues like establishing native woodlands, restoring wetlands, and creating habitat for missing native species.

As well as making way for ecological change on the ground, Northwoods will develop sustainable nature-based business models, focusing on opportunities for communities.
‘We want to see vibrant, prosperous communities within nature-rich landscapes, as increasingly enjoyed across Europe,’ said Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture’s executive director.

SCOTLAND: The Big Picture has now launched an appeal to raise £20,000 to help Northwoods develop over its first two years, with match-funding platform The Big Give to double every donation. The appeal can be supported at bit.ly/NorthwoodsAppeal.

The other 11 Northwoods partners are Argaty Red Kites, Carbeth Home Farm, and Little Drumquharn Farm in Stirlingshire; Ballinlaggan Farm and Ballintean Farm in the Highlands; Bamff Wildland, Comrie Croft, and Upper Brae of Cultulich Farm in Perthshire; Drumadoon Farm on Arran; and Kinkell Byre in Fife.