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Trees for Life (Scotland)

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Trees for Life
TypeConservation charity
  • The Park, Findhorn Bay, Forres, Moray, Scotland
Area served
Scottish Highlands
£4,162,000 (2023)

Trees for Life is a registered charity working to rewild the Scottish Highlands.

The Caledonian Forest once covered a large area of the Highlands of Scotland as extensive stands of majestic Scots pine, interspersed with birch, rowan, juniper and aspen trees, but is now reduced to about 2% of its former extent. Through planting native species of trees, removing non-native species and fencing seedlings to protect them from overgrazing by deer and sheep, Trees for Life aims to help the natural regeneration of the forest. Its long-term goal is to create a fully restored, healthy ecosystem, with the reintroduction of missing species of wildlife, such as the beaver, red squirrel, and lynx.

Scots pine
Red squirrel

Trees for Life work across the following key areas:

  • Supporting landscape restoration.
  • Reintroducing and protecting native animals.
  • Helping to connect communities and people with nature.
  • Enabling rewilding at scale through advocacy and partnership work.[2]

Volunteers have helped to support Trees for Life’s work by growing and planting trees, and monitoring wildlife through their volunteering programmes. By engaging people from diverse backgrounds, Trees for Life aims to achieve a powerful and educational experience that will promote the work of nature restoration to wider audiences and lead to increased support for the return of the forest and its species.

Trees for Life value collaboration, and are engaging with communities, landowners, and businesses to ensure that people thrive alongside the expanding wild forest. Nature restoration helps to combat the challenges of the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis as nature-rich landscapes are more diverse and resilient, and help to store carbon, and reduce flooding and erosion.


Trees for Life was founded in 1986 by Alan Watson Featherstone, as a project under the Findhorn Foundation. Practical work began in 1989, and the first volunteer week was held in 1991. Trees for Life was registered as an independent charity in 1993. Trees for Life has been working tirelessly to restore the Caledonian Forest, especially in Glen Affric where one of the most important fragments of Caledonian Forest survived and at Dundreggan, a Highland estate the charity bought in 2008.[3]

Dundreggan Tree Nursery

Initial work took place in Glen Cannich, but they have also supported woodland creation in Glen Affric, where they operate in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland. Since the early days, work expanded into other nearby glens, such as Glenmoriston, to the south of Glen Affric, at Achnashellach, and at Corrimony, where they worked in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Trees for Life are working to ensure the full range of native trees are returning to the Highlands including Scots pine, aspen, and mountain top willows and birches. Their Dundreggan tree nursery is key to supporting this work by providing the hard to grow and rare trees.

Young Scots pines planted by Trees for Life on the heather moors at Corrimony

Volunteer Rewilding Weeks[edit]

Trees for Life offer volunteer Rewilding Weeks [4] held in spring and autumn, and at varying locations across the Scottish Highlands, depending on work required. Rewilding Weeks are run by two leaders and consist of a small group of volunteers. Work carried out includes tasks such as native tree planting, non-native species removal, seed collection, fencing, and working in their tree nursery. Trees for Life are passionate about providing initiatives for individuals to directly engage with rewilding.

Dundreggan Estate[edit]

In August 2008 Trees for Life purchased the 10,000 acre Dundreggan Estate in Glenmoriston, in the Scottish Highlands [5] – one of the largest areas of land in the UK to be bought for forest restoration.

Dundreggan, lying on the north side of Glenmoriston to the west of Loch Ness, is home to declining species such as black grouse and wood ants. It contains areas of ancient woodland, including one of Scotland's best areas of juniper as well as significant areas of dwarf birch. It was previously managed as a traditional sporting estate for many years, and heavy grazing by sheep, goats, and deer has prevented the healthy growth of woodland and other natural habitats.

Trees for Life's long-term plan will see Dundreggan restored to a wild landscape of diverse natural forest cover, with the return of native wildlife. In 2020, golden eagles, a spectacular bird of prey, returned to breed at the estate for the first time in 40 years.[6] Trees for Life also engages a larger, more diverse audience with the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands through their Dundreggan Rewilding Centre,[7] a world-class, environmentally sensitive facility that serves as a gateway to the wider landscape.

Waterfall on the Dundreggan estate

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre[edit]

An initiative by rewilding charity, Trees for Life, the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is the first of its kind in the world and opened in April 2023 [8] at the Dundreggan Estate. The Rewilding Centre has the An Nead café, An Spiris accommodation, and their visitor experience team delivers a varied programme of events, tours, and activities. The Rewilding Centre is the perfect place to explore Scotland's wild forest and experience rewilding in action.

Affric Highlands[edit]

Affric Highlands [9] is a 30-year collaborative initiative by Trees for Life and Rewilding Europe who are working to restore woodland, peatland and riverside habitats in the Scottish Highlands. Rewilding supports nature, climate and people by boosting biodiversity, creating jobs, and supporting re-peopling. In June 2022, Affric Highlands was recommended for UN flagship status by the Scottish and UK governments.[10]

Rewilding Nation[edit]

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance,[11] a coalition of more than 20 organisations - including Trees for Life - is urging the Scottish Government to declare Scotland a Rewilding Nation and to commit to nature recovery across 30% of land and sea.

In 2024, the Scottish Rewilding Alliance launched a Rewilding Nation Charter. [12] A campaign, backed by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, calling for Scotland to become the first Rewilding Nation in the world.[13]

See also[edit]

  • Rewilding Britain - an organisation founded in 2015 that aims to promote the rewilding of Great Britain.
  • Rewilding Europe - a non-profit organisation established in 2011 dedicated to creating rewilded landscapes throughout Europe.


  1. ^ Results of our work Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Help rewild the Scottish Highlands". Trees for Life. Retrieved 9 July 2024.
  3. ^ Webster, Helen. "Trees for Life buy estate in Glenmoriston". Walkhighlands. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  4. ^ "Rewilding Week Volunteering". Trees for Life. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  5. ^ Webster, Helen. "Trees for Life buy estate in Glenmoriston". Walkhighlands. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  6. ^ Life, Trees for (13 August 2020). "Golden eagles breed at Highlands rewilding estate for first time in 40 years". Trees for Life. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  7. ^ "Rewilding Dundreggan". Dundreggan Rewilding Centre. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  8. ^ "A world-first in the Scottish Highlands". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  9. ^ "Affric Highlands". Trees for Life. Retrieved 10 July 2024.
  10. ^ "Affric Highlands rewilding project recommended for global UN flagship status | Scottish Rural Network". www.ruralnetwork.scot. Retrieved 9 July 2024.
  11. ^ "Home". www.rewild.scot. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  12. ^ "The Rewilding Nation Charter". www.rewild.scot. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  13. ^ "Instagram". www.instagram.com. Retrieved 8 July 2024.

External links[edit]