Saturday, November 15, 2008

Regeneration retrospective

Picture: The head of Glen Alladale. The trees in the snow in the background constitute the most northerly remnant of Caledonian Pine forest in Scotland, and are the subject of a major conservation effort by the Alladale estate.

In 1985 and 1986, on a path to recovering mentally and socially from nearly seven years military service, I lived a year at the Findhorn Community in Scotland, and became involved in the meetings of a start-up forest conservation group called Trees for Life. I soon tired of one or two of the personalities involved and instead reached out to the more pragmatic Reforesting Scotland, which I have to say is probably my favorite all-time conservation group for its ethos of indigneous forest regeneration combined with democratic and affordable rural lifestyles. Many years later, I wrote a history of conservation and sustainable development in the Highlands and Islands for my MS thesis, and was lucky enough to be given financial support from the University of Montana and Japanese industrial sustainability advocate Akira Yamaguchi, to revisit on long research trips. And just recently, Aimee and I were sponsored by Unity College to take another research trip, this time to the Alladale Estate run by eccentric millionaire Paul Lister, another regeneration effort.

All these groups, and several others not mentioned, not least the official government agency the Forestry Commission, are important for their contributions to reforesting the Highland landscape. A Scots pine forest spreading slowly across a heather moorland is a great sight to see, speaking both ecologically and in terms of conservation. I recommend it. But the birch and sessile oak and rowan and other hardwoods deserve attention too.

This new travel article by the Guardian details the remarkable success of Trees for Life in connecting the east and west coasts of the Highland landmass with regeneration.

What an inspiration for others in taking the long view! And what a personal delight to have tracked this effort all these years and watched it grow. All in all, I think I've done a pretty good job of staying in touch with Highland forest conservation and regeneration. I hope to put these contacts and knowledge to good use soon with a spring break trip for Unity students, possibly in 2010. Why not sooner? Aimee has a trip to Nicaragua scheduled for this year, and someone has to feed the sheep!

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