Trees for Life 25th Anniversary!

IMG_1432 Double rainbow over an old Scots pine at Coille Ruigh

18th March 2018, by Steve Micklewright

Some dates are worth celebrating – it’s 25 years today since Trees for Life became a charity. That means we have officially been restoring the Caledonian Forest for a quarter of a century. I’ve been here for two of those years and am constantly amazed and inspired by the achievements that Trees for Life staff and volunteers have made happen since 1993. This blog is my homage to them and to the countless supporters, members and funders that enable all this incredibly positive work to happen.

25 years of forest restoration

We will have planted well over 1.5 million trees by the end of 2018, creating new forest equivalent to an area of 4,000 rugby pitches. These trees will produce enough oxygen each day for the entire population of Scotland to breathe! A massive achievement however you describe it. 

A wild forest is more than just trees. Recently we have been helping red squirrels to recolonise forests in the north west Highlands of Scotland. We have translocated 140 red squirrels to 7 woods so far and already have evidence that they are breeding and spreading. People are seeing red squirrels where they had been missing for over half a century.

The influential Scottish-American naturalist John Muir once said that, ‘between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life’. We have been helping to open doors for people through our volunteering opportunities since we started. Well over 3,000 people have joined us, for a week or more, working in wonderful places to help restore the forest. Guided by dedicated Group Leaders, these times have changed people’s lives, like Jonathan’s (see photo on right).

We also will be celebrating owning Dundreggan Conservation Estate for ten years in the summer. Since 2008, we have been transforming what was a traditional hunting estate into a rewilded landscape. More than 3,300 species have been recorded at Dundreggan and at least 68 of these are a priority for conservation efforts. Dundreggan is also famous for the smaller, less charismatic creatures too. Every year it seems that a rare or unusual bug is discovered there. As the forest grows and matures, we can expect more to be found.

Back in the 1990s, the idea of restoring the great Caledonian Forest that once covered much of the Scottish Highlands seemed impossible to many, but thanks to the energy of our founder, Alan Watson Featherstone, the unique character and special qualities of the Caledonian Forest are now recognised worldwide. Over a million people visit our website every year to find out about the wild forest. 

We are launching ambitious new projects in this, our 25th year. Our Caledonian Pinewood Recovery Project will encourage and help landowners to restore the 50 or so fragments of ancient pinewoods that will be dead in a few years if nothing is done. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for our Skills for Rewilding project, we will be training 15 people over the next 3 years in the skills needed to restore the forest, providing a workforce which understands both traditional land management (eg deer stalking) as well as new approaches to forest restoration.

We are also developing plans to make Dundreggan a centre for rewilding and forest restoration - a place where you can come to experience the new wild forest of Scotland as it grows and where people can be inspired to get involved.


The next 25 years...

Our first 25 years have taught us how to restore the forest (or ‘rewild’ it as it is increasingly described). We will need your help to ensure that in the next 25 years we can deliver a step change in the rate at which the forest is saved and expanded - by further developing and sharing our expertise and inspiring others to rewild.

I know that whoever is writing about Trees for Life in 25 years’ time will be celebrating the emergence of a large and diverse wild forest in the Highlands. It will be a forest alive with all forms of life, from tiny lichens and mosses to animals, like beaver, that were once lost from this land. It will be a forest loved and cherished by people near and far. And it will all have been made possible by you. Thank you.


Steve Micklewright

Chief Executive Officer  


Here's how you can help make the next 25 years even better

Join as a member   Volunteer   Make a donation   Plant trees   Leave a gift in your Will



Stay connected

Sign up to our mailing list to receive our monthly ‘Tree News’ e-newsletter and other occasional emails about volunteering, events, appeals and fundraising. It’s the perfect way to stay up to date with the latest news about the wild forest and it’s wonderful wildlife.

Sign up