A LANDSCAPE-SCALE rewilding initiative has been announced in the Scottish Highlands, stretching from Loch Ness in the east to Kintail in the west, taking in Glens Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel.

Following three years of consultation with rewilding charity, Trees for Life, and other Scottish partners, Rewilding Europe has unveiled its plan for Affric Highlands, a network of land to be restored to its 'natural state' to boost habitat connectivity, species diversity and, claim its supporters, social and economic opportunities in the region.

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"The rewilding movement in Scotland is growing like never before," declared rewilding Europe. "It has captured the public imagination and inspired those with land to make better use of it for nature and people. Affric Highlands’ ambition takes this newfound enthusiasm to the next level as the Scottish Rewilding Alliance advocates for the country to become the world’s first ‘rewilding nation’, and commit to bold action on rewilding to address the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis."

Chief Executive Officer at Trees for Life, Steve Micklewright, commented: “Trees for Life is delighted that the Affric Highlands initiative is going to be one of Rewilding Europe’s nature restoration areas. It demonstrates the potential of the area for nature to come back and for people to thrive alongside it. It also highlights the potential of the Scottish Highlands to make a positive contribution in dealing with the dual global climate and biodiversity emergencies.”

In the designated area, Trees for Life and its other Scottish partners want to see hillsides morphing back into woodland, peatlands rewetted and montane scrub re-established. The charity said that natural grazing would play its part as a 'catalyst for biodiversity', with deer producing carrion to sustain more life up and down the food chain.

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"Habitats will be reconnected to facilitate wildlife movement, with fences removed and a contiguous wild and dynamic area established in collaboration with landowners," said the statement. "This will also support the comeback of an iconic species – work is in progress to reintroduce the legendary, yet critically endangered, Scottish wildcat to the area, a flagship species that depends greatly on habitat connectivity and therefore also chosen as the trademark for the area."