John Muir Trust living landscape project

Monday 6th June, 2011

Partnership project aims to bring a Highland landscape to life

A group of landowners have launched the Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape, the largest project of its kind in Scotland.

The Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape is a partnership project between the John Muir Trust, Assynt Foundation, Culag Community Woodland Trust, Eisg Brachaid Estate, Tanera Mor and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

These partners have joined forces to work together to deliver one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in Britain – an aspirational 50-year plan to bring woodland connectivity, species-rich flora and fauna, and economic prosperity to the Scottish uplands. The partnership aims to develop projects which have both environmental and social benefits for the area.

Coigach and Assynt, north of Ullapool in the northwest of Scotland, attracts hill walkers and wildlife enthusiasts in equal measure. It is home to a wide range of wildlife, including nationally important populations of golden eagle, black throated diver, Scottish wood ant, wild cat, freshwater pearl mussel and basking shark, as well as rare habitats such as Atlantic oak, birch and hazel woodlands.

As well as developing large scale restoration projects to restore woodland and peatland habitats, one of the major aspirations of the new project is to create local jobs, training opportunities and economic growth in Coigach and Assynt. The project also aims to attract new landowners into the partnership.

Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust said, “We are very excited about this project as it joins up estates which cover one of the most stunning areas of wild land in the UK. Assynt and Coigach is a world-class landscape that attracts visitors for a wide range of activities, including hillwalking and fishing. There is a lot we can do as individual landowners to improve the landscape, and by pooling our expertise and resources through this partnership we hope to be able to achieve even more. “

Mark Snowdon of Culag Community Woodland Trust said, “The Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape project’s social and ecological objectives are ambitious, but by directly involving local people we can achieve them. The partnership structure of the project, combined with energetic and expert support from within the community encourages confidence that it will deliver important benefits for everyone involved.”

Jonny Hughes, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s director of conservation said, “A great variety of wildlife currently ghettoised in fragmented habitats stands to benefit from this partnership. By working together to see the bigger picture and breathe new life and connectivity into the ecosystems of Coigach and Assynt, globally rare species will be given a chance to increase in number and thrive once more. Key species set to benefit from this project encompass a wealth of biodiversity, including Scottish wood ants to iconic golden eagles, and important habitats such as carbon-storing peatlands and rare Atlantic oak woods.

“However, this project is also about more than simply wildlife. People are at its heart, and by caring for nature we hope to bring social and economic benefits to local rural communities, which are themselves an iconic part of Scotland’s heritage. Coigach and Assynt stands out because large areas are owned by conservation groups and community trusts, who have been enthusiastic about getting involved in this partnership project. Our main aim now is to demonstrate real conservation on the ground over large areas and bring benefits to local communities.”

Lizzie Williams, from Tanera Mòr said: “Participating in a forum of local land owners, managers and national conservation organisations is a fantastic opportunity for the Island and her inhabitants to benefit from a wide range of expertise and resources, whilst also sharing the experiences learnt on Tanera. We hope that our involvement in the CALL project will help us more fully realise our ambitions for Tanera Mòr, whilst contributing to the long term environmental, social and economic sustainability of the whole Coigach and Assynt area.”

Click here to see a map of the project area

via jmt.org

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