A new nature reserve encompassing globally important peatlands and ancient woods is to be created after a £3.8 million community land buyout was agreed.
The Langholm Initiative charity will buy more than 5,000 acres of land in Dumfries and Galloway from Buccleuch Estates after raising the funds in time.
It will lead to the creation of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, which will be a haven for wildlife including rare hen harriers, while native woodlands will be established and ancient woods restored.
The project will also support community regeneration, including through plans for the community to capitalise on new nature-based tourism.
Langholm Initiative project leader Kevin Cumming said: “The support for our vision has been overwhelming.
“We can never thank the major donors and thousands of members of the public enough for their contributions.
“A team of dedicated people have worked tirelessly to achieve something special here – mostly volunteers, who continued to strive to make this happen against what at times felt like impossible odds.”
He added: “Community ownership can be a catalyst for regeneration, which we want to show can be done with the environment at its heart.
“We hope the success here will encourage and inspire other communities in Scotland and across the UK.
“Realising the full potential of community ownership will take time – and the hard work is really just about to begin.”
The Langholm Initiative had until October 31 to raise the funds for a deal to avoid the Scottish Land Fund withdrawing the £1 million offer it made in June, which left the community with just months to raise millions of pounds.
South of Scotland Enterprise announced up to £1 million support while a public crowdfunder raised more than £200,000.
Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch Estates, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have reached a significant agreement with the Langholm Initiative and this deal demonstrates what can be achieved when everyone involved is committed to working together.
“The community has done a tremendous job in raising the funds to make this historic acquisition and the plan to create a nature reserve has attracted widespread support.
“We wish the project every success.”
He added: “Engaging constructively with the communities in which we operate as a business is important to us.
“We have a long-standing policy of reducing our overall footprint to enable us to invest in other projects and will continue this policy of selling land to interested farmers, community bodies and organisations which express an interest.”
Other major funders to the buyout include John Muir Trust, Carman Family Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Bentley Foundation and The Woodland Trust.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is significant news for the south of Scotland but also demonstrates that, when working together with a shared goal, local communities can be a power vehicle for change.
“I applaud the initiative wholeheartedly for realising their ambition and look forward to it inspiring other community groups to drive and deliver their own projects right across the country.”
The purchase will be finalised by January 2021, by which time the legal work is expected to be be completed and it is hoped work on the reserve will start early next year.
Discussions will continue over the remaining 5,300 acres of land the community has expressed an interest in buying.