Climate Solution: Rewilding Europe to Invigorate Local Economies
Collective purchase by local residents of an 8400-hectare estate where 800 hectares of woodland has now been restored. Previously, this area was used for sheep grazing, and as shooting areas, and although this use of the land benefited a few people (namely the private landowners), it did not provide the environmental and social benefits which are now evident. The woodland, which has been able to grow since the sheep were removed, now provides more jobs than sheep farming. The woodlands continue to provide income from deer hunting which was already present in the area. But further income is generated from tourism, from walkers following the “North Coast 500” road, and seasonal sightseers. Tree orchards, tourist paths and fuelwood projects are underway. Furthermore, the growth of this native woodland composed of birches, rowans, pine and willows is a haven for wildlife and creates a rich ecosystem which was previously absent, not to mention acting as a new carbon sink. Crofters were initially provided with grants from the Scottish Government to plant trees and provided with income to compensate for not keeping sheep on the land. However, income is now such that the benefits of woodland over sheep grazing are clear. The purchase of this land is setting a precedent for land reform in Scotland, much of which has historically been under the private ownership of large estates. More communities across Scotland are now starting to purchase land as they recognise the benefits of reforestation for the environment and society.