|The charity will more than double this year’s planting total with a commitment to plant 100,000 native trees in the Scottish Highlands in 2007. Launching this pledge at the start of National Tree Week, Trees for Life is one of the first UK organisations to step up to the challenge.
The charity’s executive director and founder, Alan Watson Featherstone, said “We’re delighted to join forces with UNEP, and people all over the world, in making this positive and practical commitment to plant 100,000 trees next year. These trees will make a significant contribution to the return of the Caledonian Forest in the Highlands and are also a statement of care and concern for the future of the planet.”
The UNEP campaign’s goal is for a billion trees to be planted by individuals and organisations around the world in 2007, to encourage people everywhere in addressing the issue of climate change. The Billion Tree Campaign encourages planting in degraded natural forest and wilderness areas. With Scotland having lost 99% of the original Caledonian Forest, and the Highlands offering substantial scope for restoring wild land, Trees for Life is ideally placed to help achieve UNEP’s goal and is now seeking extra volunteers to help with planting the trees in spring and autumn 2007.
MORE ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN.
Scotland is a prime candidate for ecological restoration work, as it is one of the countries which has suffered most from environmental degradation in the past. The Highlands in particular have been described as a 'wet desert' as a result of the centuries of exploitation which have reduced them to their present impoverished and barren condition. Formerly covering 1.5 million hectares the Caledonian Forest has been reduced to just 1% of its former extent.
Working in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland and the RSPB, Trees for Life has been actively restoring the Caledonian Forest since 1989. Running over 30 volunteer conservation Work Weeks a year Trees for Life have already planted more than half a million native trees as part of a far reaching project to return a 900 square mile target are in the North West Highlands to wild forest. The long term goal of Trees for Life is to restore the Caledonian Forest to an area of 600 square miles in the north-central Highlands, and to reintroduce the missing species of wildlife, such as the beaver, wild boar, brown bear, moose, lynx and wolf which formerly lived in the forest.
The vision of Trees for Life is to restore a wild forest, which is there for its own sake, as a home for wildlife and to fulfil the ecological functions necessary for the wellbeing of the land itself. Many other countries are now repeating the same ecological mistakes, Trees for Life believe that the onus is on Scotland to provide an example of reversing the damage which has been done. Thus, at Trees for Life, they envision their work to restore the Caledonian Forest as not only helping to bring the land back to a state of health and balance, but also having global relevance, as a model for similar projects in other countries.
Trees for Life have been implementing their vision and strategy through practical work on the ground since 1989, and some of their most significant accomplishments to date include:
Over 150,000 naturally regenerating Scots pine seedlings and other native trees have been protected from overgrazing by fences which they've funded.
More than half a million Scots pines and native broadleaved trees have been planted by staff and volunteers.
They have funded the fencing of 458 hectares (1,132 acres) of land in Glen Affric for forest regeneration and expansion.
They’ve carried out forest restoration work at numerous other sites in their target area, including Glen Moriston, Achnashellach, Grudie Oakwood in Strathbran and the Corrimony Nature Reserve in Glen Urquhart.
They have initiated special projects for the regeneration of rare trees in the forest, such as aspen, and for specific threatened parts of the forest ecosystem, including the montane shrub community and riparian or riverside woodland.
In 1991, in recognition of their work, they were declared the UK Conservation Project of the Year in an annual competition run by the Conservation Foundation.
In 2000, after 5 years of monitoring and assessment, Trees for Life received the prestigious Millennium Marque Award which was given to projects which 'demonstrate environmental excellence for the 21st century'.
In 2001, their founder and Executive Director, Alan Watson Featherstone, received the celebrated Schumacher Award for 'his inspirational and practical work on conserving and restoring degraded ecosystems'.
They propagate all the native trees in Caledonian Forest in their own nursery at Plodda Lodge, concentrating particularly on the scarcer species, such as hazel, holly, juniper etc, which are difficult to obtain from other sources.
The four most commonly planted species are Scots Pine, Rowan, Aspen and Birch.
Over a thousand volunteers, from teenagers to seventy year-olds, have taken part in their forest restoration work. Coming from both the local area, and as far away as Canada, Argentina and Australia, the volunteers receive a powerful experience of working together in a group with like-minded people to do something practical and positive for the planet. See Volunteer Work Weeks in the Scottish Highlands.
Over a period of several years, they have carried out the most extensive surveys in Scotland for dwarf birch, a key component of the montane shrub vegetation community. This is part of their programme to facilitate the regeneration and recovery of this community, which has been almost entirely eliminated in Scotland by overgrazing and burning.
They run the largest programme of aspen propagation in Scotland, growing this rare species from root cuttings for planting out in the Highlands. They’ve also carried out an extensive survey of their target area for aspen trees, having mapped out 352 sites where it occurs.
They acted as a catalyst for the purchase in 1993 by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) of the West Affric Estate, which encompasses the entire headwaters of the Affric River. In partnership with NTS they are working to facilitate forest restoration on West Affric, through a series of exclosures for natural regeneration, some planting of native trees and a reduction of deer numbers.
In 1995 they produced a special educational pack for schools, entitled 'The Disappearing Forest', featuring worksheets on the importance of trees, and a story to colour about a wolf and a bear, who lose their homes as the forest disappears. These were distributed to every primary school in the Grampian and Highland regions of Scotland. An updated and revised edition of this pack, e Fantastic Forest', and now including a beaver in the story, was reprinted in 2000.
In 1996 they purchased Plodda Lodge, near Glen Affric, and this field base houses some of their volunteer work week groups and their own native tree nursery.
Further afield, their vision and practical work have played an important role in inspiring several other projects to become established - the Carrifran project, which aims to restore native forest to an entire valley in the Borders region of Scotland; Moor Trees, which aims to restore native forest to Dartmoor in the southwest of England; and the Yendegaia project in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, where a substantial area of land which is the same distance from the equator as the Caledonian Forest has been purchased for the restoration of its degraded forests and protection of its wilderness qualities.