Scottish Highlands to be transformed by major rewilding project

Scottish Highlands to be transformed by major rewilding project

A great swathe of the Scottish Highlands is to be reimagined as part of a 30-year project to restore character

An area equivalent to 250,000 football pitches is to be rewilded as part of an ambitious project to bring character back to the Scottish Highlands. 

Announced on Thursday, the Affric Highlands initiative will include planting trees, restoring peat bogs, connecting wildlife habitats and restoring river corridors over 500,000 acres.

The 30-year rewilding project will include Loch Ness, the Kintail mountain range and the glens of Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel.

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Affric Highlands will be one of the largest rewilding projects in Europe. It has been additional to Rewilding Europe’s growing network of large-extent character restoration projects. Others include the Danube Delta in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova, Romania’s Southern Carpathians and Swedish Lapland.

The initiative is the consequence of three years of consultation between Rewilding Europe, the Trees for Life charity, local communities and landholders. Organisers hope it will provide an economic raise to the vicinity. Work is set to begin in 2023. 

“Affric Highlands will take large-extent character recovery to a new level, providing a catalyst for the local economy at the same time,” said Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life. “The Highlands have huge possible to help character to come back and so help people to thrive, and to make a leading contribution to tackling the global climate and character emergencies.”

Organisers hope Affric Highlands will raise character tourism in the vicinity. Image: Trees For Life

Trees for Life is set to open the world’s first rewilding centre in Scotland in 2023. The charity is already working on a project to restore the ancient Caledonian Forest, and has established nearly two million trees at its own 10,000 acre estate at Dundreggan in Glenmoriston. 

“Affric Highlands is a bold, exciting and inspiring venture for character’s recovery as Scotland moves up the biodiversity league table,” said Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe.

“Including Affric Highlands in our portfolio of major European rewilding areas will help magnify rewilding’s impact in the Highlands, and put it firmly on the global map.”


Rewilding Europe’s nine big hitters

1. Greater Côa Valley, Portugal 

2. Danube Delta in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova

3. Southern Carpathians, Romania 

4. Velebit Mountains, Croatia 

5. Central Apennines, Italy 

6. Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria 

7. Oder Delta in Germany and Poland

8. Swedish Lapland

9. Affric Highlands, Scotland

Main image: Grant Willoughby/Trees For Life

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