The Assynt Foundation and Woodland Trust Scotland have entered a 30-year partnership to revitalise Glencanisp and Drumrunie Estates in the North-west highlands.

The result will be a resilient upland landscape that should support more people as well as greater biodiversity.

Assynt Foundation Chair Claire Belshaw said: “Together we will work to create a diverse and productive landscape of woods, moorland and water. This will provide a high-quality backdrop for The Assynt Foundation to realise its rural development ambitions and provide a sustainable source of income.”

The Assynt Foundation was established in advance of the landmark community land buy-out of the Glencanisp and Drumrunie estates in 2005, under provisions of The Scottish Land Reform Act (2003).

The 44,400 acres includes the mountains of Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag set amongst a vast patchwork of rivers and lochans.

The partnership aims to create new native woods amongst a wider mosaic of trees, open moorland and mountains. Open ground habitat, peatlands and riparian areas will be improved through this 30-year rolling work programme. Existing ancient woodlands including remnants of Scotland’s rainforest will be restored and expanded.

Claire Belshaw continued: “This partnership will build on work already done by Assynt Foundation since we purchased the estates in 2005. A reduction in deer numbers has already resulted in natural regeneration of some of our native woods and the flowering of dry and wet heaths. We want to do more, and we are thrilled to be working with Woodland Trust Scotland for the next 30 years to see new woods planted. These woods will provide shelter for red deer, livestock and lots of wildlife within and around the edges. People can continue to enjoy and benefit from this landscape by working in it and walking through it.”

Peter Lowe of Woodland Trust Scotland said: “We are very conscious that initiatives such as this can become festooned with words that imply going back to some past state – re-storing, re-vitalising, or re-wilding - but we are looking forward. We are progressing to a landscape that is simply more productive across the board. It will deliver for nature and for people. This is an exciting opportunity to show how we can work with local communities to bring about landscape scale change. The aims of nature conservation and economic wellbeing should not be at odds.”

The partnership will deliver community benefits for Assynt Foundation members, the wider Assynt community and the Scottish people and will incorporate a programme of public engagement and training.

A joint management board will oversee the work with the chair alternating between the two charities. A Land Management Plan will be reviewed every five years with local consultation in line with Scottish Land Commission guidance.

The Trust will fund the woodland creation and environmental projects through the Forestry Grant Scheme and carbon revenue where eligible. Woodland Trust will register the new woodland with the Woodland Carbon Code and share the carbon income with Assynt Foundation.

Notes to Editors

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Woodland Trust Scotland is part of the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. The Woodland Trust has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:

  • protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  • restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  • plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 29,000 hectares. In 1984, the Trust acquired its first wood in Scotland. Today it owns and cares for some 60 sites covering more than 8,000 hectares across Scotland. Access to its woods is free.

Assynt Foundation was set up to make a community buy out of the Glencanisp and Drumrunie Estates in Assynt in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland from the Vestey family. It achieved this in 2005, by raising £2.9 million, including substantial backing from the Scottish Land Fund/Big Lottery Fund and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

This buy out was the first major landholding purchase under the community buy-out provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and is the fourth biggest buy out in Scotland in terms of land area.

The two estates combined amount to around 18,000 hectares (44,000acres) of land and include much of Assynt and Coigach's distinctive inselberg landscape, including the iconic mountains of Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag.

Assynt Foundation is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland, reg. no. SC272665. It is also a Scottish registered charity, no.SC036540.

The voting membership of the Foundation is only open to residents of Assynt. The Board of Directors is elected from among the membership by the members. Local control is guaranteed via the constitution. Non-residents can join as non-voting Associates.

The Foundation's charitable objectives, enshrined in its constitution, are:

  1. To manage community land and associated assets for the benefit of the community and the public in general as an important part of the protection and sustainable development of Scotland's natural environment, where sustainable development means development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  2. To advance the education of the community about its environment, culture and/or history.