By Anders Lorenzen
In recent years the process of rewilding has emerged as not only a key climate change strategy but also one that will protect and enhance biodiversity.
In the UK several projects are already up and running, and now another has just been confirmed.
The Affric Highlands
An ambitious 30-year landscape-scale rewilding initiative has been launched by the charity Trees for Life that will link up a majestic sweep of the Scottish Highlands as one vast nature recovery area connecting Loch Ness to Scotland’s west coast. The Affric Highlands has been realised on the back of three years of consultation between Rewilding Europe, Trees for Life, and other local partners and stakeholders.
Stretching from Loch Ness across the central Highlands to Kintail in the west, and encompassing Glens Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel there is potential to rewild and restore 500,000 acres. To achieve this project Trees for Life brought together a broad coalition of landowners, communities and others to boost habitat connectivity, species diversity, and social and economic opportunities in the region while tackling climate breakdown.
Stakeholders say community involvement has been the key. The project includes a diverse group of 20 landowners covering at least 25% of the total area. So far six organisations have joined and it is hoped more will follow, and work is underway to involve local people. As well as connecting habitats, Affric Highlands will bring people together to help nature recover, and strengthen connections between communities and the wildlife on their doorsteps.
Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive of Trees for Life said this project is another step in the right direction towards establishing Scotland as a Rewilding Nation: “With Scotland’s rewilding movement growing rapidly – and the Scottish Rewilding Alliance calling for Scotland to become the world’s first Rewilding Nation, with the rewilding of 30% of the country’s land and sea by 2030 – Affric Highlands will take large-scale nature recovery to a new level, providing a catalyst for the local economy at the same time.”
So far Trees for Life’s has established nearly two million native trees at several sites in the Highlands, including Glen Affric.
European rewilding ambitions
The project will be listed as the ninth member of Rewilding Europe as, with this project, the organization is inching closer to meeting its goal of ten such sites across Europe.
Rewilding Europe’s eight other large European rewilding areas are Portugal’s Greater Côa Valley; the Danube Delta in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova; Romania’s Southern Carpathians; Croatia’s Velebit Mountains; Italy’s Central Apennines; Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains; the Oder Delta in Germany and Poland; and Swedish Lapland.
Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe added: “Affric Highlands is a bold, exciting and inspiring venture for nature’s recovery as Scotland moves up the biodiversity league table. Our decision to accept the project as our ninth rewilding area reflects the hard work and achievements of Trees for Life, its volunteers and its partners.”
The rewilding process is slated to begin in 2023. Also in 2023, Dundreggan will become home to the world’s first Rewilding Centre which will showcase how large-scale nature recovery can give people amazing experiences, create jobs and benefit local communities.
Affric Highlands has been made possible due to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.