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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Appeal for half a million pounds to restore ancient forest

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Loch Arkaig Pine Forest is home to iconic wildlife including ospreys, sea eagles, wildcats and red squirrels and was even a training ground for Second World War commandos.

A Scottish charity has launched a public appeal to raise £500,000 to purchase and restore an ancient forest.

The Woodland Trust Scotland hopes to bring the Loch Arkaig Pine Forest near Spean Bridge back to life with the help of the local community.

The Caledonian forest covers 2500 acres and is home to iconic wildlife including ospreys, sea eagles, wildcats and red squirrels and was even a training ground for Second World War commandos.

If the appeal is successful the trust will work with Arkaig Community Forest to restore the forest back to native woodland. Arkaig Community Forest will take ownership of around 120 acres of the site.

Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “Restoring this forest is a spectacular opportunity to benefit both people and wildlife.

“It is an immense challenge that will take decades to complete but we will be safeguarding a large proportion of the dwindling area of ancient pine forest left in Scotland, and helping to increase employment in a fragile rural area.”

As well as helping wildlife the restoration of the forest will benefit local people through improved access and involvement in woodland management, creating local jobs and livelihoods in a remote rural area.

The forest was a training ground for the first commando units formed during the Second World War, who were based nearby at Achnacarry Estate. Hundreds of scorched Scots pine trees that were burned in a forest fire started during a training exercise can still be seen.

Restoration will be achieved through gradual thinning of non-native conifers such as larch and lodge pole pine to recreate a more natural mix of woodland dominated by pine, birch and oak.

The forest is being sold as surplus through the National Forest Land Scheme, introduced in 2005 to give community organisations and/or recognised non-governmental organisations the chance to buy or lease National Forest Land where they can provide increased public benefits.

Gary Servant from Arkaig Community Forest said: “Thanks to the hard work of our members and supporters over the past two years we are delighted to have recently entered into partnership with Woodland Trust Scotland to acquire and manage these forests, and we hope that together we can make a real positive difference to this important native pinewood site in the years to come.

"The local community will be directly involved in the management of the site and we hope that local people and businesses across Lochaber will benefit from new forest and land-based jobs, as well as from improved opportunities to access and enjoy the amazing woodlands which surround us.”

Simon Hodge, chief executive of Forest Enterprise Scotland, said: “We’re delighted that Arkaig Community Forest is working with support from the Woodland Trust Scotland to purchase this land through the National Forest Land Scheme (NFLS). We are hopeful that this pioneering partnership will inspire similar arrangements among other community organisations and recognised NGOs in Scotland.”