Charity outlines plans for network of rewilding ‘stepping stones’

A chain of nature-rich hotspots bringing together a diverse group of estates, farms, crofts and community-owned land is to be created across Scotland.

The new rewilding network launched by charity SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, will allow more of Scotland’s many smaller landholdings of 50 to 1,000 acres to play a bigger role in restoring and connecting rich habitats full of life to boost declining species, tackle climate breakdown, and create new opportunities for rural communities.

The Northwoods Rewilding Network will complement Scotland’s major landscape-scale rewilding sites by filling in the gaps in local areas and joining together a tapestry of smaller nature recovery sites and wildlife corridors.

The 12 initial land partners include farms, crofts, small estates and a community woodland covering 3,500 acres between them.

The sites include Argaty Red Kites, Carbeth Home Farm, and Little Drumquharn Farm in Stirlingshire; Ardura Community Forest on the Isle of Mull; Ballinlaggan Farm and Ballintean Farm in the Highlands; Bamff Wildland, Comrie Croft, and Upper Brae of Cultulich Farm in Perthshire; Drumadoon Farm on Arran; and Kinkell Byre in Fife.

Ballintean Farm in Cairngorms national park is one of the land partners. (Scotland Big Picture)

The project hopes to expand to at least 10,000 acres within two years. 

“With Scotland’s nature in crisis, we want to harness the potential of smaller landholdings to come together. We need to scale-up nature restoration while highlighting the economic and social opportunities that rewilding brings for people,” said James Nairne, Northwoods’ Project Manager.

“Despite their beauty and drama, many of Scotland’s landscapes have been in ecological decline for a very long time, with many species extinct and others once prolific now teetering on the edge. Northwoods will help turn this around.”

Research in 2016 estimated that only 28 countries out of 218 have lost more biodiversity than the UK, with Scotland faring only slightly better than the UK average.

Rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature – goes beyond protecting the fragments of nature now left. It restores vibrant living systems across woodlands, peatlands, wetlands, rivers, and at sea. 

Land partners joining Northwoods will work to an agreed set of principles covering issues such as establishing native woodlands, restoring wetlands, and creating habitat for missing native species. 

As well as enabling ecological change on the ground, Northwoods will develop sustainable nature-based business models, focusing on opportunities for local communities.

At some sites, cattle and horses will be used to replicate natural grazing patterns, boosting insect numbers and helping to disperse seeds. (The Big Picture)

“We want to see vibrant, prosperous communities within nature-rich landscapes, as increasingly enjoyed across Europe,” said Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture’s Executive Director.

SCOTLAND: The Big Picture has launched an appeal to help raise £20,000 to help Northwoods develop over its first two years, with match-funding platform The Big Give to double every donation.

You can help support Northwoods development on The Big Give website.

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