In September, TENT in partnership with The Beaver Trust, facilitated a press trip from Edinburgh to Inverness. Journalists and influencers travelled to various sites across Scotland to see beavers first hand, and gain insights from experts involved in beaver conservation. Here’s TENT’s Outreach Manager, Kate Heightman’s report on the trip.
Scotland is pioneering the recovery of beavers in Britain and is currently the sole country where beavers are free-living in the wild. Approval is still being sought for their release in Wales, and they can only be translocated into enclosures in England.
Beavers benefit nature and people in many ways. As ‘ecosystem engineers’ their activities can create wetland habitats, improve habitat structure and variety, and enhance biodiversity. They can also alleviate flooding, improve water quality, and bring socio-economic benefits.
In May 2008, the Scottish Government gave permission to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust for a scientifically monitored, trial reintroduction of European beavers to Knapdale Forest.
They then announced in November 2016 that beavers could remain in Scotland. This decision provided for the return of a species that was part of our wildlife for thousands of years before becoming extinct here around the 16th century.
Beavers finally gained European protected species status in Scotland on 1st May 2019, with the view from the government that the species should be allowed to expand its range naturally.
In some places and situations, the activities of beavers can be seen to have negative impacts on other interests such as farms, gardens, or other land. Sometimes this can simply be managed to prevent damage, such as by fencing vulnerable areas or protecting individual trees. Other actions, like the removal of more mature dams, manipulating dams or undertaking lethal control, can only be carried out under licence.
The Beaver Trust, along with Nature Scot, can provide free expert advice to help people experiencing problems, and where possible will provide measures to minimise damage through the beaver mitigation scheme, where beavers are trapped and translocated.
This is where the Beaver Trust’s vital impact on reintroduction begins, with Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer leading the Restoration team. Beavers that have been implicated in land-use conflict are trapped and brought to Five Sisters Zoo for quarantining. Here we heard that they undergo a series of checks for parasites and diseases, and overall health. Once they have been through this process, they can be approved for translocation to sites where landowners are carrying out nature restoration and want to reintroduce beavers as part of this work. We were lucky enough to see a family of the endearing rodents at the facility, that have since been successfully released in Ealing.
Argaty Farm, where Red Kites reintroduced on the neighbouring farm first successfully bred in 1998, is now also home to red squirrels, and a family of beavers released in 2021. After a tour with landowner and beaver enthusiast, Tom Bowser, we settled quietly beside a pond where the beavers spend the day hidden in their lodge. To our delight, as dusk fell, the beavers emerged and swam around in the water trying to make out what who the strangers watching them were. Finally, we were treated to a tail splash, which the beavers use to spook or scare away potential threats and predators – we took the hint!
Beavers colonised an area around Mill Dam, above Dunkeld, about twenty years ago, so their activity here is very well established. They have created a complex network of canals, dams and ponds, to enable them to move around safely and forage for food. Their favourite fodder is willow, which they manage like coppice, cutting and bending stems to encourage fresh shoots. It’s easy to imagine that humans began to copy this activity to produce wood for weapons and building – an early example of biomimicry.
The wetland habitat created by the busy engineers supports many different invertebrates, amphibians and fish, that then provide food for birds and other mammals, improving biodiversity. The beavers’ efforts also store water, lessening the impact of droughts, and slowing flows, mitigating flooding.
In Kenmore, we met Duncan Pepper, a local fishing guide and beaver ambassador who is adamant that these aquatic animals can play a vital role in safeguarding the future of the Atlantic salmon in Scotland through their habitat management efforts. We set off down the river Tay on two rafts, for a beavers’ eye view of the riverbanks. We saw how human interventions to control the river can worsen the impact of the more extreme weather we are experiencing as a result of climate change. Less than two weeks later the Tay flooded very badly after a bout of intense rain, illustrating how vulnerable the catchment now is to such events.
This year saw the first ever Scottish wildcats returned to the wild in the UK, with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Saving Wildcats project releasing 19 of the so-called ‘Highland Tigers’ into an area of the Cairngorms National Park. The cats are being closely monitored to track their behaviour, and much effort is being put into reducing threats from feral cats and to educate the public, so that the cats have the best chance of survival. TENT is supporting the production of a new film to highlight the importance of reintroducing this native species.
At the same time, the Park Authority, in partnership with the Beaver Trust, has been conducting a public consultation on a proposed beaver translocation scheme in the Cairngorms Connect area – where public and private landowners collaborate to maximise the positive impact of their nature restoration work. We got the details from Dr Sally MacKenzie and Jonathan Willet who are waiting to hear whether a release licence will be granted, and it was truly inspirational to witness the passion and commitment of all involved.
Our trip finally led us to South Clunes farm, where beavers have been living since 2008. Currently their area is fenced off from fields used for livestock and forage harvesting, so here the situation is more akin to that found in England, where beavers are not yet freely roaming the countryside. Fred Swift showed us around and we saw some very impressive dams and teeth marks! It was clear that this was a model that could be used by many farmers willing to allow nature to take control in the least productive areas of their holdings, and that this could lead to an increase in biodiversity that attracts people seeking a connection with wildlife too.
South Clunes has diversified to provide accommodation and the farm-based holidays are proving popular. They also welcome many students, or ‘loons’, who come to learn about sustainable and regenerative farming practices, as well as Fred’s ‘Farm Clusters’, where a collaborative approach to livestock management and food production is being explored. Beavers can play an important role in achieving these objectives, and positive stories from farmers who have them are essential to dispel myths among the skeptical.
This trip was held in collaboration with Beaver Trust – an organisation TENT has been supporting for many years.
Michael La Page: New Scientist
Rob Edwards: The Ferret
Steve Deal: Scotland Magazine
Camilla Swift: Spectator
Annabel Lever: Nat Geo Kids
Dani Connor: Wildlife Filmmaker and YouTuber
Vedangi: Instagram influencer
Rob Howe: Nuffield Scholar, large animal veterinarian and prospective beaver ambassador.
The recovery of the Iberian lynx is one of the world’s greatest conservation comebacks. In October 2023, The European Nature Trust’s Jacob Dykes visited our partners at CBD-Habitat – an organisation that has played a key role in Spain’s Iberian lynx recovery.
Under an azure sky in the Toledo district, just 30-minutes trainride from Madrid, the scent of petrichor from the Mediterranean forest hits the nose. As red kites leap from oak to oak, Samuel Pla, senior technician at CBD-Habitat foundation, slows the car engine to a halt and winds down the window. He strains to hear the sharp, piercing sound of a magpie’s call – ‘it’s an alarm sound, you hear it?’ he says. ‘We’re close now to the lynx’.
For an hour this afternoon, we had been tracking wild Iberian lynx using a telemetry antenna which picks up the location and distance of radio-collared lynxes – an activity that CBD-Habitat use to monitor the growth and distribution of Spain’s recovering population. The blue flash of the magpie’s wings drops past an oak tree on the Mediterranean savanna, and for a brief moment, it cuts past the silhouette of a cat-like shape, hard to pick out as night creeps forth. ‘Tres linces!’ whispers Nuria El Khadir, director of CBD-Habitat. With all this tracking equipment, it was the humble magpie, nature’s sentry, that pointed out the lynx to us. And not just one, but three – a mother with two cubs.
Pla pulls a thermal imaging scope from his bag and hands it to me. I can just make out three surprisingly large, spotted figures with the naked eye. With the imaging scope, they illuminate into a burning white, seen tracking a big group of rabbits a few hundred meters ahead.
It has been a difficult history for the iconic, endemic species: in the early 20th century, lynxes were intensely persecuted for hunting sport and the trade in its exotic fur. In the 1950s, a drastic decline in the abundance of wild rabbit – lynx’s main prey – brought about by an outbreak of myxomatosis, saw lynx numbers drop intensely. By the 1990s, the rabbit disease had swept across Europe, and when a new variant of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) emerged, lynx numbers spiralled to just 94 individuals isolated in two populations in Andújar and Doñana.
Images courtesy of: CBD-Habitat, El Encinarejo
Seeing that the population was on the brink of collapse in 2002, the European Commission’s LIFE programme brought together more than 20 organisations, including CBD-Habitat, to step in and revive the population. ‘The dangerous situation really brought groups together,’ says Carmen Rueda, technician at CBD-Habitat. The strategy was relatively simple: establish a network of breeding centres; create a genetically-resilient stock population; and release them into the wild at carefully selected sites across their historic range. Since those early days, those ‘seed’ populations have successfully been established, growing the number of wild Iberian lynx from a historic low of below 100 individuals to more than 1,600 today, now spread across eight distinct populations. It would have been the first felid species to go extinct since the sabre-toothed tiger. 'Thanks to successive LIFE projects of the European Union, together with other private and public funds, we have been able to save this feline from extinction, together with administrations, other NGOs and organisations,' says Rueda.
Today, the CBD-Habitat team are monitoring many of the reintroduced populations, tracking their movement and behaviour with camera trapping and radio collars, and monitoring their breeding cycles. Just last year alone, more than 400 cubs were born – a promising stat for the future.
In 2023 alone, CBD-Habitat have made significant achievements:
The following morning, Pla and I are back out on the ranch at El Castañar in Toledo. The air is still and pink clouds drift idly above the Dehesa, a traditional agricultural landscape highly suited to the lynx’s hunting habits. It takes just 10 minutes of driving before we see a younger lynx with the white tale of a rabbit dangling from its mouth. ‘My gosh, we are so lucky,’ says Pla. ‘The owners of this place were some of the early adopters of lynx conservation work. You can really feel it in the rabbit and lynx comeback here.’
In many areas of rural Spain, the population recovery has been helped by a willingness of local communities to welcome back the carnivore. Fortunately, ‘the lynx is not a very conflictive animal,’ says Carmen. ‘It’s handsome, people like watching the animal and ecologically speaking, it is beneficial for hunting groups.’ Lynx, by controlling the amount of prey available, reduce the numbers of other predators lower down in the food chain, such as foxes and mongoose. In turn, the numbers of game species begin to rise, benefitting hunting groups. The support of landowners is key to the project’s success; since the return of the lynx, many have even created ecotourism businesses that enrich income from traditional olive, cereal and livestock farming, (see El Encinarejo, and Quintos de Luciañez).
However, there is significant work to be done. In 2020, the LIFE LynxConnect project was launched– an effort to link up these new populations by creating at least 10 wildlife corridors, which scientists call ‘stepping stones’ – passageways of plentiful habitat encouraging isolated lynx populations to disperse and connect with one another. One of the main challenges is ensuring there are enough rabbits in these areas. ‘Without rabbits, you don’t have lynx,’ says Pla. In corridor areas, the CBD-Habitat team are working with landowners to improve the rabbit populations, enriching vegetation, constructing artificial warrens, and translocating them from other rabbit-rich regions.
But amid climate change, the rabbit population is declining in many key areas, such as Andújar. This year, a prolonged period of drought created unpredictable rainfall patterns, drying vegetation and impacting the rabbit’s ability to breed. In turn, the breeding patterns of lynx in key regions is becoming more unpredictable. This makes rabbit monitoring and population improvement works from groups like CBD-Habitat that much more important to growing and maintaining the overall range of the lynx.
The Iberian lynx is slowly glimpsing salvation. However, there is still much work to be done. The reintroduction populations have been a turning point, but there are still many areas where the Iberian lynx was present in the past and is now extinct. Encouraging the natural expansion of populations and settlement in new areas, as well as creating new reintroduction nuclei, are key to guaranteeing a Favorable Conservation Status for the species. In addition, we must not forget the mother areas. Doñana and the Sierra de Andújar-Cardeña are sanctuaries for the lynx. They are internationally emblematic regions for their rich and unique biodiversity; places from which the lynx never disappeared, a land where they belong.
Through our new partnership with Dell' Ugo Foods, it's as easy as that to make an impact.
If you want to support bear conservation, you can pick up a special pack of Dell' Ugo pasta at your local Waitrose, or even order some via the Dell Ugo website. Just look out for the special sticker below!
Each pack helps to generate impact for bear conservation. You can even donate to the initiative directly on the Dell' Ugo website.
Indulgent British Cromer Crab Parcels with lemon, coriander and a hint of warming chilli.
£5.85 – each pack sold contains a donation for Marsican bear conservation
Distinctive porcini mushrooms with indulgent black summer truffle and mascarpone with a delicate hint of thyme wrapped in British fresh free range egg pasta parcels.
£5.85 – each pack sold contains a donation for Marsican bear conservation
As a 4th generation, family-run business rooted in Italian heritage, Dell' Ugo are tremendously passionate about sustainability practices. ‘We care deeply about Italy, its culture, and its environment, all of which are intrinsically linked to nature,’ writes Dell' Ugo’s own head of CSR and Sustainability, Freddie Ugo. That’s why we’re creating a platform for bear conservation through the sale of pasta products; many people are unaware that the Italian bear even exists, let alone that it is a species perilously close to the edge. Through the product range, we’ll create awareness of the bear, while generating funds for prolonged conservation efforts into the future.
There are only 60 Marsican brown bears left in Italy. They are officially classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “Critically Endangered”. The Marsican brown bear’s survival is pivotal for the long-term viability of the Apennine Mountains’ ecosystems. While originally inhabiting lowland areas as well, pressure from humans over the past 2 centuries has led to their confinement to higher mountainous regions within the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park.
But the bears can have a bright future, if we only give them the space and support they need.
The Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park has potentially reached 'carrying capacity', making it difficult for the bear population to grow. As such, the bears' future depends on them being able to move to new protected areas (left) and expand their territories.
Our partners at Salviamo l'Orso are carrying out critical 'on the ground' conservartion work. They have key focus areas, mitigating threats to bears like traffic collisions, building 'bear smart communities' that coexist alongside the species, and supporting the restoration of key bear habitats.
Salviamo l'Orso have so far made the following achievements, just in 2023 alone, with TENT's support:
of barbed wire removed
guardian dogs were vaccinated to prevent the spread of diseases to wolves and bears
reflectors were installed on dangerous roads
electric fences were installed to prevent bear damage
bear proof bins have been provided by SLO to local municipalities
fruit trees were pruned to improve fruit for bears
of bear fencing was installed on National Road 17 – one of the most dangerous roads for bear collision
public events have been delivered to support coexistence
children have enjoyed conservation activities with SLO
At TENT, we believe that nature cannot be protected or valued unless it is enjoyed. For the past ten years, TENT has been supporting an outdoor education programme that provides meaningful outdoor learning experiences at Alladale Wilderness Reserve. Across the week, children from the Highland community learn valuable leadership skills while connecting with nature, each other and themselves.
Outreach manager Kate Heightman joined the group of 12 from Dingwall Academy, one of five schools to participate in this year's HOWL education programme.
The HOWL programme is an immersive outdoor activity, personal development and environmental education course for teenagers that has been running at Alladale Wilderness Reserve, supported by the European Nature Trust (TENT), in its present form for the past ten years. Initially developed within this partnership with botaninst and arborist, Dr William (Billy) Bodles, and contract instructors Adelong Outdoor Education, HOWL became a registered Scottish charity in its own right in 2018. TENT provides funding to subsidise the programme and the charity has also received match funding this year from The Woodland Trust Scotland.
There is simply no better place to learn about ecology and nature restoration than Alladale Wilderness Reserve. More than one million native trees have been replanted here, in an effort to reforest a section of the lost 'Wood of Caledon', as the Romans called it.
New in my role as Outreach Manager with TENT when this year’s HOWL programme began, I was keen to get stuck in and find out exactly what it involved, so I decided to join the group from Dingwall Academy to gain first-hand experience of the course. I’m a former environmental science teacher and qualified mountain leader, so a chance to wild camp and explore Alladale’s landscape and wildlife, as well as helping reinforce important messages about conservation and nature restoration, was right up my street – or should I say strath! (Strath is a Scottish word for wide, open valley, as opposed to glen, a narrower, steep-sided valley.)
Students arrived at the entrance to the reserve and were quickly divided into three groups. More than a hundred children come to Alladale each year, so the total number who’ve benefitted from the experience is now in the thousands. I joined a diverse band of students, who each brought something to the group, be it a grounding in the countryside through family backgrounds in farming or fencing, and conversely an urban disconnect from nature, or special educational needs. One thing was certain – they would leave Alladale changed – both in terms of their understanding of the environment, and themselves.
I’ve long been a believer that spending time in the outdoors benefits our mental health and wellbeing, and it also provides opportunities to develop confidence and a sense of belonging, when we experience achievement by triumphing over difficulties. These challenges don’t need to be extreme, like bagging every munro in Scotland, they can depend on what is challenging for the individual, and when adversity is experienced by a group as a whole, that can lead to the development of bonds, trust and faith in each other. The HOWL programme provides ample opportunities for personal development, team-building and improvements in mood and outlook, even opening up young minds to possibilities they hadn’t considered before - giving them a future they can believe in.
Team-work is required early on in the course as students are paired-up to erect tents, collect firewood and prepare a meal from the very first evening, all the while learning how to consider others’ needs and reduce their impact on their surroundings. Once camp is set up, they are coached in handling knives and storm kettles safely, how to coax fire from kindling and leave no trace of their activities behind.
Most members of the group I was with were reasonably extrovert and happily interacted with each other right from the get-go, but some took a little longer to adapt to the lifestyle and occasionally needed time out. The instructors are all trained youth workers, used to helping young people deal with stressful situations or personal issues. We were lucky with the weather that week, and it was warm enough to warrant a lot of water play in the river – free play, is something that is lacking in teenagers’ lives in the modern world of constant stimulation via information technology and social media. It has been shown to develop creativity and ingenuity - important skills for problem-solving and project management. Others were more driven to explore and discover the natural world around them, working with Billy to identify different species.
On the second day, we left the budding regenerating woodland, planted as part of Alladale’s nature restoration work, and continued our journey upstream through the majestic, but barren, unrestored scenery of Gleann Mor. Here we got kitted out with wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets for a gorge walk up a deep cleft in the side of the glen. With the afternoon sun perfectly positioned to light and warm us as we plunged, splashed and scrambled our ascent, this activity unanimously delighted all in our shared fun. There was scope for more education too, as this watercourse was one of many in Glen Beag intercepted by dams and redirected through hydroelectric turbines, raising questions about the impact of renewable energy generation on the aquatic ecology of this sensitive habitat.
The good weather we enjoyed is not kind to all: a combination of deforestation and climate change is causing the increasingly extreme weather to have a devastating effect on one well known Scottish species – the salmon. The lack of shade coupled with erratic rainfall now more often results in temperatures in the rivers rising above the range of tolerance for the salmon, so they can experience thermal stress and even death. The solution is to restore vegetation cover to river catchments, which provides shade and shelter, and even adds nutrients in the form of dead leaves, to the ecosystem. Having learned the context of concerns about the salmon, HOWL participants more easily understood the need to return any caught by fly-fishers to the river. They took turns trying to improve their arc and flick of the line under Billy’s tutelage, but it was a little early in the season for a catch. More success was had on the archery field however, with everyone able to hit at least part of the target!
The next day we set off ‘over the top’ – the start of our return journey to civilization. The hike took us up the hill behind Deanich, where we discovered common frogs hiding among sub-artic montane habitats of heathers, grasses, mosses and lichens, and on bare ground we saw common lizards and green tiger beetles. I took the chance to explain in depth the importance of the peat beneath our feet in drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, reducing the rate of climate change. Scotland is globally important for peatland, with the Flow Country of Sutherland under consideration for World Heritage Site status, but 80% of the fragile and slow-forming peat is degraded due to drainage, overgrazing and vegetation loss. The Scottish government is investing in nature-based solutions to achieving carbon net-zero and provides funding for peatland restoration.
The European Nature Trust has plans to support peatland restoration work; we are also supporting the recovery of native woodland on the five key rivers of the Kyle of Sutherland catchment.
When the time came for them to leave, it struck me that participants in this year’s HOWL programme may well be directly involved in future nature restoration projects as the sector expands. There will be many opportunities for careers in peatland restoration, ecosystem services management, carbon baseline surveys, carbon trading and nature capital, as well as wildlife conservation and translocation of lost species, such as beavers and wildcats. In addition, there will be jobs created in linked industries like eco-tourism, hospitality and catering, farming, timber production, deer management and contracting, all of which can be made more sustainable by working with nature as a ‘business partner’. The young people who have come to Alladale and experienced the possibilities provided by a thriving wilderness reserve, where the fruits of individual effort reward everyone through an improved quality of life, will go home with minds full of everything they have seen and done, feeling more positive about their abilities and their futures. I hope to continue to support their learning journeys by linking education and qualification providers with the work of the European Nature Trust, developing the Willow Centre at Alladale and assisting a just transition to a nature-based economy and livelihoods in the Highlands.
On 7th June, we hosted our highest ever attended event for the premiere screening of Unknown Belize. Over 350 guests from the UK, Europe and the Americas came together at the Royal Geographical Society to watch a distilled feature length film of the 4-part series. On screen, we clearly witnessed how the Belizean culture of protecting their nature is setting a new bar for global conservation. As Jamal Galves, aka Manatee Man of Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute puts it in the Unknown Belize film: 'Conservation is not a spectator sport. Everybody has to get up and do something, we need all hands on deck. It's not a job, it's not a career. You don't do conservation. You live conservation'.
We know that system-wide change is needed in how we go about our lives; that a new global consciousness, championing the real value of nature, is an essential part in protecting it; and that we need humility and togetherness as a global community to conserve the natural world. At a time when we need it most, and with a national character steeped in environmental stewardship, Belize is providing a blueprint. The question is, will we have the curiosity to listen and learn from those that have already done so much to conserve? Now, it's up to us a global community to consider our own role in the resolving the global ecological crisis, contribute, and make efforts to learn from those doing more than their fair share.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to the event sponsors and all the series donors who made the philanthropic production possible. The feedback we have received on the event has been positive. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the start of the screening was delayed which compromised the food and beverage service for some of the guests.
Please do enjoy a selection of images from the evening. You can download the full image pack for your use here (please credit Ap-Art Photography and The European Nature Trust).
Donors: Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation, Wilsdorf Mettler Future Foundation, Teach Green Charitable Foundation, HFF Nature Trust, The European Nature Trust, Andres Toro, John Taylor, Mike Kirkham, Ganesh Ramani
Unknown Belize features Belize’s most visionary and integral Non-Governmental Organisations and conservation foundations working together to preserve Belize’s natural heritage: Belize Audubon Society, Belize Maya Forest Trust, BFREE, Clearwater Aquarium Research Institute, Community Baboon Sanctuary, Crocodile Research Coalition, Friends for Conservation and Development, Fragments of Hope, Mar Alliance, Maya Leader Alliance, Oceana, Panthera, Program for Belize, Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, The Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, The Nature Conservancy and Ya’axche Conservation Trust.
Unknown Belize was proudly shot by an all Belizean film crew at Feste Films, showcasing to the world their spectacular country. The production of the series was executed by OneTribe TV.
The series is currently in the hands of our distributor, and we will let you know when we have further news as things unfold. Please do subscribe to the TENT newsletter (in the page footer) to stay up to date with the latest developments.
With the generous support of our sponsors for the evening, we were able to host more than 350 guests, who came together to celebrate and raise funds for the protection and promotion of Belize's natural wealth.
Our primary sponsors: The Family Coppola Hideaways offer beautiful ecolodges that allow you to connect to Belize's healthy nature. Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort is an award-winning location curating diving itineraries for the budding adventurer.
Our secondary sponsors: Stanhope Capital have boldly supported TENT for a number of years. Capital Orthopaedics is a private orthopaedic clinic run by Simon Moyes, with a passion for supporting nature conservation projects. NatureTrek offer affordable and expertly-guided wildlife holidays to Belize, which you can discover here.
Drinks for the evening were kindly provided by Copalli Rum, a Belizean rum manufacturer set in the heart of the jungle. Banrock Station and Packamamma collaborate to deliver excellent wines, sustainably packaged to limit transport-related emissions.
23rd February – 2nd March 2024
We're introducing a new journey across Belize’s three outstanding biomes; from the dense jungle of Maya forest to the tropical savanna and deep coral reefs, discover Belize’s spectacular biodiversity and a national character intent on the preservation of nature.
This journey is an immersion into the vast ecological wealth of Belize’s three biomes, where environmental leaders have long been marrying biodiversity protection with social impact, to experience the ambitious conservation projects contributing to Belize’s vast ecological wealth. This exclusive, specially curated itinerary features a significant contribution to the four Belizean NGOs that you’ll encounter along the way.
We'd like to share an extract from a May 15 Essay in the New York Times: Graduates, My Generation Wrecked So Much That’s Precious. How Can I Offer You Advice? by Margaret Renkl.
"We are, all of us, creatures. We belong to this gorgeousworld in all the same ways that the coyotes in the cove belong to this world. In all the same ways that the fog-shrouded trees belong to this world. You may come someday to feel trapped in asphalt and concrete, but you are not trapped. When you are restless or lonely or afraid, go for a walk in the park or a hike in the woods. Plant a little garden, if only in pots on the sidewalk. Being in the wild world will make you feel better. Get your hands dirty. I promise you will feel better.
And merely by falling in love with the world, you will begin to make it better. Human beings will work to their dying breath to save something they love. Fall in love with the wild world, and you are taking the first step toward saving it.
The world is beautiful. People are good. If you can remember those two things, you will find your way to understanding that nothing ever came of despair, that change happened only because good people worked together to make an unfair world better."
Back in May last year, The European Nature Trust hosted the UK Premiere of Riverwoods, a film produced by Scotland: The Big Picture, which highlighted the threats Scottish salmon are facing under climate change. Most importantly, the film marshaled a vision for a wilder Scotland, where the restoration of nature brings broad benefits for the Highland community. With proceeds from the BFI fundraising event, TENT initiated a partnership with Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust and The Fishmongers’ Company to restore riparian woodland on the Kyle rivers catchment. We’re pleased to report that the first season of planting is now complete, bringing together a range of stakeholders, with momentum for more planting projects now gathering.
The Kyle Riverwoods project aims to create a network of healthy riparian habitat across the rivers of The Kyle of Sutherland. Summer heatwaves are already warming our headwater burns to 26C but Atlantic salmon cannot feed and grow once water temperatures reach 23C. Trees create habitat and shade rivers but less than 3% of the Kyle of Sutherland area is home to native woodland. We must work fast if we are to save the fish and their dependent social heritage, including 86 full-time livelihoods.
The work is spearheaded by the tireless Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust, a wonderful local team who are busy working with landowners, community members and key stakeholders to grow a ‘pipeline’ of investment ready woodland creation projects across five rivers of the Kyle catchment (Cassley, Shin, Carron, Evelix and Oykel). The European Nature Trust has an ongoing funding commitment to KSFT which, with support from other partners including Mossy Earth, enables this necessary work to establish, map and deliver woodland creation projects.
TENT, KSFT and our partners then work together to build funding and support streams that help to scale-up and connect identified woodland creation projects. We work with trusted partners who share our vision, to cover the costs of tree planting and the protection of replanted native trees.
Working across three sites during March and April 2023, the team at KSFT restored approximately 6km of river by replanting native trees upwards of the riverbanks, representing the first of the Kyle Riverwoods trees delivered under the project. Once established, replanted native trees will make a significant contribution to the overall native riparian woodland cover.
Louis Vuitton (LV) have joined us in our vision to restore native woodland on some of the UK’s most threatened river systems. By collecting 10p from every carrier bag issued from their Edinburgh Store, LV are creating a financial engine that will allow the scaling of Kyle Riverwoods projects.
Not satisfied with learning about the Riverwoods project secondhand though, LV staff travelled to Sutherland to meet project officer, Sean Dugan and TENT staff, Jacob Dykes and Kate Heightman. They braved incessant rain to plant native riverbank trees on the Allt Chaisegail burn, a tributary of the river Tirry. Those wearing wellingtons formed a planting team on the far riverbank while those wearing walking boots planted the near bank in a hotly contested competition to plant the most trees. At close of play each riverbank welcomed saplings of new aspen, hazel, birch and alder, which in the future will improve habitat for the fish by providing shade to cool the burn and a source of nutrients and insect life. The LV staff also helped clear up the wider planting site by hauling back excess equipment and packaging from trees and tree guards.
Hosted by TENT, LV staff then visited Alladale Wilderness Reserve the following day to witness a native woodland restoration effort that began way back in 2002. Sat in the center of the Kyle catchment, more than one million native trees have been replanted along Alladale’s two Highland glens as part of a broader pioneering effort to restore the Scottish ecosystem.
LV, TENT, KSFT and the Banister Charitable Trust have recently committed match-funding to construct a community tree nursery in Ardgay, which is currently seeking planning permission. If successful, in the long-term, the nursery will help fuel the Kyle Riverwoods project with native riverbank tree species of local provenance, which can be difficult to source from large commercial tree nurseries. The tree nursery initiative would provide an opportunity for volunteers to engage with local nature restoration. Seed collection and nursery care would provide a focal point for environmental awareness, connecting people to the headwaters of the rivers upon which they live. This accessible space will provide a learning opportunity for local children, and an inclusive meeting space for local people to help fight feelings of isolation.
If planning permission is granted, a local nursery manager will be appointed who will be given the freedom to design the layout of the nursery from scratch. The proposed site is approximately 0.2ha and would be expected to produce at least 5,000 trees per year once established, with space for future expansion built into the plans.
The Ardgay community tree nursery will draw inspiration from other productive nurseries in Scotland, including the Trees for Life nursery and the Little Assynt nursery at Lochinver. There are not yet any major commercial nurseries in the North Highlands and the nearest small-scale facilities are Little Assynt (46 miles by road) and Dundreggan (67 miles by road). A nursery in Ardgay would dramatically reduce biosecurity risk by sourcing and growing trees locally. Due to Brexit, COVID-19, tree disease and the clamour for trees since COP26, supply of certain native species in the UK is expensive, and extremely limited with several key species such as aspen very rarely available. A local tree nursery will dramatically reduce the impact these issues have on mobilising tree planting projects, providing much-needed tree sapling stock.
Left: Little Assynt Tree Nursery, Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape