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Scottish Environment and Land Reform minister Mairi McAllan was in Lochaber last week for a visit to Loch Arkaig Pine Forest, near Spean Bridge, to view work on one of the biggest Caledonian pinewood restorations ever attempted.
Loch Arkaig Pine Forest has two of just 84 remaining fragments of ancient Caledonian pinewood in Scotland.
Its ancient, wide-crowned ‘granny’ pines were in danger of dying out without reproducing – squeezed out by non-native commercial conifers planted in the 1960s.
Some 70,000 tonnes of mainly Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine is to be removed over the next five years to allow the remaining Scots pine and other native trees to repopulate the landscape. Felling and extraction of non-native timber started over the winter.
Woodland Trust Scotland and Arkaig Community Forest bought the site in 2016 from Forest Enterprise Scotland under the National Forest Land Scheme.
Their aim is to restore native woodland habitats; reconnect local people with the management and stewardship of the site; and use the woods to underpin sustainable rural development in the nearby communities of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clunes.
‘This is an extraordinary and beautiful woodland,’ Ms McAllan said. ‘It has been fascinating to see the partnership work being done here by Arkaig Community Forest and Woodland Trust Scotland.
‘Their restoration efforts are helping to support biodiversity, reduce nature loss, protect our environmental heritage and create a unique resource for local communities. I was particularly pleased to see an example of horse logging, a sustainable and traditional forestry skill, and to stand in a small ravine containing a pocket of Scotland’s stunning rainforest.
‘The partnership at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest shows that collective working with local communities is producing benefits for all. It is a fine example of people and environment living and working in harmony which I hope will be followed by others.’
The minister viewed the forest from a boat on Loch Arkaig before landing to see felled timber being extracted by Tarzan the logging horse with his handler Simon Dakin.
She also toured other parts of the site and met with Woodland Trust Scotland staff and a member of Arkaig Community Forest.