Trees for Life (Scotland) is a registered charity formed in 1981 by Alan Watson Featherstone, as a direct result of the inspiration and example of Richard St. Barbe Baker, the 'Man of the Trees'. Originally formed as part of the Findhorn Foundation they now operate as an independent charity, though their offices are still based within the Findhorn Park, and they continue to maintain strong links with the community.
The main focus of their work is a major project to assist the natural regeneration of the Caledonian Forest, which 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, and is now reduced to just 1% of its former extent. Their long term goal is to restore the Caledonian Forest to an area of 600 square miles in the north-central Scottish Highlands, and to reintroduce the missing species of wildlife, such as the European beaver, wild boar, Eurasian lynx and Eurasian wolf which formerly lived in the forest.
Practical work on the project began in 1989 and since then they have planted over 650,000 native trees and have protected numerous areas with fenced exclosures so that natural regeneration of the trees can take place in the absence of overgrazing by animals such as Red deer.
Initial work took place in Glen Cannich, but the majority of their activities to date have been in Glen Affric, where they operate in partnership with both the Forestry Commission and the National Trust for Scotland. In more recent years, work has expanded into other nearby glens, such as Glen Moriston, to the south of Glen Affric, at Achnashellach in the northwest of the 600 square mile target area, and at Corrimony, where they work in partnership with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Their work also has an international dimension with the Restoring the Earth project, which promotes the restoration of the world's degraded ecosystems as the most important task facing humanity in the coming decades.
Woodland Ground Flora Project
Trees for Life's Woodland Ground Flora Project seeks to enhance populations of plants which have become scarce in established woodland, species such as one-flowered wintergreen (Moneses uniflora), and twinflower (Linnaea borealis), and to establish populations of these plants, and more common species such as primrose (Primula vulgaris) and bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), in new woodland where these species are absent.
The project involves surveys of established and new woodland sites, creating trial plots for species reintroduction, propagation of plants, researching suitable species and their growing conditions and liaising with other organisations involved in similar work.
Volunteer Work Weeks
Most of Trees for Life’s practical work is carried out by volunteers, through their programme of volunteer work weeks, providing opportunities for people to get involved and support their efforts. Held throughout spring and autumn, each week consists of 10 volunteers, and is run by two leaders, who may be Trees for Life staff members or Work Week volunteers who have been trained to lead weeks themselves. Work carried out includes native tree planting, non-native species removal, seed collection, fencing and the removal of redundant stock fences.
Each year a percentage of the volunteer groups are based at the charity's field base and nursery, Plodda Lodge, where they help with work in the nursery, as well as carrying out restoration work in the Caledonian Forest in nearby areas such as Glen Affric and Corrimony.
Trees for Life purchased Plodda Lodge, near the village of Tomich just outside Glen Affric, in 1996. This large house is located in a quiet secluded area surrounded by trees and was built in the 1850s as a laundry for the Guisachan Estate. Its remote location in the forest makes it ideally suited for use as a field base for the charity’s increasing practical work in the area.
Plodda Lodge is now run as a tree nursery, propagating trees from seeds and cuttings collected by Trees for Life staff and volunteers, with an emphasis on growing some of the rarer and/or less easily available tree species native to the Caledonian Forest such as eared willow, hazel and juniper.
In August 2008 Trees for Life successfully purchased the 4,000 hectare Dundreggan Estate in Glen Moriston, in the Scottish Highlands – one of the largest areas of land in the UK to be bought for forest restoration. The £1.65 million deal is the charity’s most significant and important project to date, and follows more than two years of negotiations.
Dundreggan, lying on the north side of Glen Moriston 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, however much of the estate is open treeless ground. It has been managed as a traditional sporting estate for many years, and heavy grazing by sheep and deer has prevented the healthy growth of woodland and other natural habitats. Trees for Life's purchase of the estate will allow them to plant 500,000 native trees and re-connect the forest between Glen Moriston and Glen Affric.
By 2058, Trees for Life’s long-term plan will see Dundreggan restored to a wild landscape of diverse natural forest cover, with the return of species including red squirrel, capercaillie, golden eagle, European beaver and wild boar. Scientific research and education programmes will be established and most human infrastructure removed. Dundreggan Lodge and a neighbouring cottage will be renovated to a high ecological standard, providing a base for volunteers and educational displays for students, researchers and school children.