The UK was the first nation in the world to declare a climate emergency in 2019 but work to restore natural landscapes has been ongoing for many years. Since 1993, Scottish charity Trees for Life has been working tirelessly to restore the Caledonian Forest.
Over the past 28 years Trees for Life has been rewilding the Scottish Highlands. The charity's vision is of a revitalised wild, providing space for wildlife to flourish and communities to thrive. Trees for Life welcomes collaborations with other organisations and believes that finding sustainable solutions, together, will always achieve more.
Catherine Faulkner, Partnerships Manager at Trees for Life discusses the ongoing work to restore The Caledonian Forest and how businesses from across the world can support its recovery.
Young scots pine planted at Dundreggan, The Highlands © Trees for Life.
The Caledonian Forest
15,000 years ago Scotland was a frozen land covered in thick glaciers where nothing could grow. As the years passed the ice began to rapidly melt, the bare rock was colonised and most of Scotland was covered in a rich and diverse forest.
The Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands was a huge wilderness of approximately 15,000km2. Over time and with a wetter climate, some of the forest became rich peat bog however, humans had a much bigger effect; felling trees for buildings and fuel and clearing the land to make way for farmland.
By the 1950s only 1% of the great Caledonian Forest remained. Since 1993 we have been working to restore that forest, enabling rewilding so that nature can look after itself. The new wild forest we are creating will benefit everyone: helping to reduce the impacts of climate change by storing carbon; preventing flooding and erosion by holding back water after rain and providing opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people to experience and be inspired by wild nature. We know if we can achieve this in Scotland, nature and people can thrive together, forever.
Rewilding the forest
Rewilding enriches the landscapes, wildlife and people who call these areas home. Rewilding is about working with nature, natural processes and seeing human activity as part of an intricate system in which everything is connected. It is a holistic approach and requires collaboration between landowners and looking at the land at a landscape scale.
The Trees for Life vision is of a revitalised wild forest in the Scottish Highlands, providing space for wildlife to flourish and communities to thrive. It is our passionate belief that rewilding can help us achieve this vision.
The key to rewilding's success is people. People to enable it, people to gain from it and people to enjoy it. Rewilding can work in harmony with how the land is managed today. It can complement and provide the opportunity to diversify how land is used. This diversification can create additional jobs supporting the sustainability of rural communities.
Giving back to nature
Our Corporate Partnerships were set up to address CSR targets and engage businesses. When our supporters visit us for team days there are so many immediate benefits - working in a natural environment has a profound impact on wellbeing and they will be connecting with work that has real resonance on the global stage. CSR activities that create a legacy, both for the charity and the participants, are key.
We wanted businesses to have a really straightforward, tangible way to show their support and our Corporate Groves allow businesses to do just that. They can donate money or buy trees. There is also the opportunity to donate money as well as trees, which is vital to our ongoing work. To date, over 110,000 trees have been planted through this portal.
We created our Corporate Groves programme which allows businesses to donate money to Trees for Life to plant trees in the Scottish Highlands. Each business receives their own branded web page where they can track and add to their donations so staff, clients and other stakeholders can all be involved. To date, more than 110,000 trees have been planted through this portal.
We also have tangible, on-site experiences where our partners can literally get their hands dirty. With each of our corporate partnerships there is an opportunity to organise volunteering days or team building events to engage with our core work, including land management and tree planting.
Over the past year we have not been able to run in-person events, but we have adapted and hosted several webinars. The webinars have focused on every aspect of our work such as our red squirrel reintroduction programme and our links to Gaelic heritage, recognising the interconnectivity of landscape, language and culture. These webinars have been hugely popular and have been a great way to stay connected to our supporters. We will continue with these once the restrictions have lifted as they have proved to be a valuable way of deepening our supporters' knowledge of our work.
From the beginning we have been supported by some fantastic Scottish venues and businesses.
We are proud of our long-standing partnership with SEC, who joined as Partners in 2007 - over the past 14 years they have planted more than 170,000 trees with us. From the beginning our colleagues at the SEC have understood the impact that events could have on the environment and have been pursuing sustainable options long before it was at the forefront of the business agenda.
Another of our partners, Valor Hospitality, has implemented a Green Champions programme that empowers staff across its portfolio of venues to be champions for the environment.
It is always refreshing to work with venues who are leading the way in sustainable tourism and events, who genuinely care and view supporting rewilding as core to their everyday operations.
A green future
We have some very exciting projects in the pipeline, including our Rewilding Centre, which will be a world-first in terms of what it will offer - enabling people to explore stunning natural landscapes, discover Gaelic culture and learn about the region's unique wildlife. The centre will showcase how rewilding and nature can give people meaningful experiences, create jobs and benefit local communities.
The all-weather visitor centre, café and events spaces will act as a gateway to fully accessible trails for everyone. There will be many opportunities for our business partners to attend events and to fully immerse themselves in the rich rewards that this landscape has to offer. We are really excited about it and look forward to welcoming people soon.
To find out more about Trees for Life visit - treesforlife.org.uk