Trees for Life acquired Dundreggan Estate in 2008 in one of the largest purchases of land in the UK specifically for forest restoration. Previously managed as a traditional sporting estate, much of the land is severely degraded. More than 300 hectares are covered in commercial plantations and heavy overgrazing has prevented the natural regeneration of native trees.
Trees for Life's long term vision is to restore Dundreggan into one of Scotland's finest native woodlands. By 2058, Dundreggan will be a very different place.
Through long-term, positive management our aims is to:
- Restore native forest to about 60% of the estate, including the full range of native tree species natural to such a landscape. Where trees predominate, they will do so as mosaics of denser stands intermingled with open and natural clearings. There will be a greater variety of species, with more oak, hazel, ash, wych elm, bird cherry and holly. Scots pine will be almost as common as birch. There will be many more young trees. There will also be more standing dead wood, where older trees that have died naturally have been left undisturbed, providing a habitat for invertebrates and nest sites for birds.
- Restore natural ecosystems or habitats, such as mires, montane scrub and sub-alpine vegetation, particularly in the northeast and the high ground in the central, northern area.
- Convert the existing conifer plantation to native forest by removing the non-native trees.
- Restore and re-establish species. One of the purposes of restoring native forest is to provide an expanded habitat for native species of flora and fauna that would once have been present. These include red squirrel, capercaillie, pearl-bordered fritillary, pine hoverfly, aspen hoverfly, twinflower, one-flowered wintergreen and creeping ladies tresses, all of which still exist in other parts of Scotland, and lost species such as European beaver, wild boar, and perhaps lynx.
- Trial the use of wild boar to prepare the ground for natural regeneration.
- Establish and maintain a comprehensive, up-to-date inventory of flora and fauna.
- Re-wild the estate by removing most human infrastructure, including fences.
- Inspire hundreds of thousands of people through our volunteer Conservation Weeks on the estate, educational visits, and through low-impact visitor access and interpretation materials.
- Extensively retro-fit Dundreggan Lodge and the nearby cottage to make them ecologically-sound, with substantial insulation and solar panels. They will provide accommodation for volunteer groups and visiting staff, and will be used by students and researchers studying biological diversity and ecology. The Lodge will include a small educational display.
- Institute an on-going programme of research into ecological restoration, to investigate the relationships between species and habitats and the effectiveness of our work. University students, researchers, restoration practitioners and others will be encouraged to carry out projects. Our aim is that Dundreggan becomes a model or demonstration for similar projects throughout the UK.
- Collaborate with neighbouring landowners and the crofting tenants where they share our goals. We will seek to co-ordinate our work on Dundreggan with similar projects on their lands, so that habitat restoration takes place over a larger contiguous area.
- Liaise closely with local people and the local community council, offering opportunities for local people to visit and to take part in voluntary activities.
Forest restoration will continue at a reduced level until at least 2158. By this point Dundreggan will no longer be isolated; it will form a continuum of native woodland with neighbouring estates.