New Scottish land restoration project in Affric Highlands
A new land restoration project has been set up in the Affric Highlands, a region stretching between the east and west coast of the Scottish Highlands. The Affric Highlands initiative aims to increase connected habitats and species diversity over an area of 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) over 30 years. The rewilding will boost habitat connectivity, species diversity and social and economic opportunities in the region.
The initiative is led by Rewilding Europe following consultation with the rewilding charity Trees for Life and other Scottish partners. The landscape-scale rewilding initiative stretches from Loch Ness on the east coast of the central Highlands across to Kintail in the west – covering multiple Glens including Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel.
As part of the restoration, hillsides stripped of vegetation will be restored into woodland, peatlands will be rewetted and restored for water and carbon storage, while efforts are underway to re-establish montane scrub. Reconnection of habitats will facilitate wildlife movement, with fence removal and the formation of a contiguous wild and dynamic in collaboration with landowners in the region. There are hopes to reintroduce the Scottish wildcat to the area – a flagship species that is critically endangered, and requires such connectivity of habitat. Natural grazing and deer management will also be employed for increasing biodiversity.
A new Rewilding centre is to be set up in a former hunting estate at Dundreggan, to provide a hub for educational initiatives and engagement with local stakeholders, with currently twenty landowners and six additional stakeholders on board. Rewilding actions to ultimately connect up these areas of land are due to begin across the landscape in 2023, with work currently underway to further involve communities and individual residents in the region. The goal is to harness an interdependence of nature, people and businesses to create a more resilient area for the future.
The Affric Highlands is Rewilding Europe’s ninth rewilding area and takes the organization one step closer in its mission to develop ten rewilding sites across Europe.