Affric Highlands – Trees for Life
The Affric Highlands project, led by Trees for Life, is bringing together landowners and communities from across the central Highlands to support nature, people, and businesses, and create a more progressive and sustainable local economy. The long-term vision for the area is to improve natural habitats to support biodiversity, to contribute to the growth and success of nature-based and sustainable businesses, and to strengthen and grow local communities.
The project is at an early stage, and Trees for Life are working with local landowners, in an area stretching from Glenelg in the west to Drumnadrochit in the east, to build relationships and identify common interests. A diverse range of just over twenty landowners – public, private, NGO, large and small – have joined the initiative, and discussions are ongoing with others. Those who sign up to the initiative are asked to identify commitments they can make to build on existing achievements and contribute to the vision that has been set out. The landowners’ ability to make their own decisions about how they use and manage their land to achieve this in practice are unaffected.
Affric Highlands recognises that the project must open opportunities up for people who do not own the land and that local communities should benefit from actions being taken. The vision is for people to benefit as nature thrives, through nature-based employment and learning, new commercial investment and activity, and shared income.
Trees for Life hope that the different measures that are taken and the related income streams, including agroforestry, carbon sequestration, tourism, field sports and forestry-based products, will help increase local spending and strengthen people’s ties to the local economy, maintaining populations and the facilities and services they need. The ultimate aim is to ensure that the project is sustainable and delivers for local people.
Appreciating that the project aims require long-term commitment and action, a key objective for Affric Highlands is involving children and young people. A youth engagement programme and youth leadership award are underway to raise awareness of and encourage involvement in local discussions about achieving sustainable, nature-focussed development. Climate anxiety and mental health are important themes of this work. This element of the project will be taken forward in partnership with High Life Highland, a charity that delivers culture, sport, leisure, health and wellbeing services across the Highlands, and local schools.
Affric Highlands also sees huge potential for peatland restoration and woodland carbon capture and recognises that there are opportunities for communities to benefit from this. Trees for Life is selling carbon credits related to woodland planting on Dundreggan Estate and has committed to sharing some of the income from these sales with two local communities. At a premium price, this may provide some insights for how carbon credits could be of mutual benefit to communities and landowners alike.
As with any long-term, large-scale proposal, there are challenges to face. Ensuring that people who are affected can participate and contribute to decisions is important. Issues like deer management have a long and difficult history which makes forming good relationships hard, especially at a time when new priorities like the climate emergency have emerged quickly to affect the debates around land use. Keeping people involved in the conversation, building trust, and being open and inclusive takes time, but it is vital to the success of the project. Affric Highlands understands the need for action to make sure that our natural environment flourishes alongside prosperous and healthy communities, and those involved are willing to put in the time and effort into ensuring this is done in a fair and inclusive way.
For more information contact Trees for Life at: https://treesforlife.org.uk/contact-us/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.