A number of organisations have joined forces in a project to restore a vast area of woodland that will transform the experience of the landscape in a large part of the central Highlands. The Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership aims to create a "vibrant, native woodland landscape" spreading across 50 square kilometres in the area between Loch Rannoch, Loch Tummel and Loch Tay.
"We have a long term vision to turn this vast upland area into a living breathing landscape of native trees, woodland corridors, flourishing wildlife and picturesque footpaths" sais Dr Liz Auty, the John Muir Trust's property manager at East Schiehallion, and a key player in the formation of the partnership.
"This project, we believe, can start to turn this landscape into a marvellous asset for the local community and a precious legacy for our children and grandchildren."
The four other landowners involved - Forest Enterprise, Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust (Dun Coillich), Dalchosnie & Kynachan Estate and the Scottish Wildlife Trust - which among them manage an extensive area of land in the geographical centre of mainland Scotland, were recently joined by Woodland Trust Scotland and the JMT at the foot of Schiehallion to celebrate the birth of the initiative.
It is intended that each partner will take forward different elements of the project. The John Muir Trust is spearheading the replacement of non-native conifers with broadleaf woodland and Scots pine. Seedling regeneration will be supported by sensitively sited fencing, they say, allowing aspen, birch and rowan and willow – currently held in check by browsing – to reach their potential. The Trust also plans to improve habitats for black grouse, willow warblers, wrens, whinchats and other species.
A further aim of the partnership is to bring locals and visitor closer to the land. Willie McGhee of Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust, which manages the Dun Coillich woodland said:
"We believe this project will benefit the local community right from the start by bringing new funding into the area, and creating training and employment opportunities. We want to encourage people to get involved, deepen their knowledge of nature and learn new skills."