A group of estates and community trusts with a combined ownership of 75,000 acres in Scotland say they are changing their approach to land management thanks to participation in a landscape leadership programme.
The diverse group, which has been coached during 2020 by Soil Association Scotland and land managers with experience of large environmental projects, is now planting more native trees and restoring peatland across the country.
At Loch Arkaig Pine Forest, owned and managed by Woodland Trust Scotland in partnership with Arkaig Community Forest, local landowners and managers are being brought together to share their knowledge of ancient woodland restoration and sustainable wildlife management – and to figure out how to work in partnership more effectively.
The pine forest’s development manager, Dr Jessica Lynch Maxwell, said the programme of residential and online sessions from experts had helped her understand and appreciate multiple land-use priorities and enabled her to begin to negotiate trade-offs between different landscapes objectives.
Meanwhile, Angus landowner, Antony Gifford of Kinnordy and Balintore Estates, says his participation in the programme is changing the focus of his large-scale woodland creation project.
He is planting around 300 hectares of new woodland next summer, and while 40% of the trees will be predominantly sitka spruce, Mr Gifford says the programme made him question whether he was using the right mix of trees.
He added: “We’ve got two projects of a similar size and we’ll probably plant less spruce and more native trees, because I’m more comfortable that carbon markets will mature to a point where you can make educated estimates of how to build them into a long-term model.”
Soil Association Scotland deputy director David Michie said he hoped the actions of the participants would inspire others to make changes that would future-proof Scotland’s landscapes.