Alladale’s Entrepreneurial Conservation Accomplishments

Alladale first came to my attention in 2017, several years after I had started reading about rewilding. It came to my attention because of an introduction, through a mutual friend, to the founder of Alladale. I recall finding his description of what he was doing as identical to our own work in entrepreneurial conservation. I cannot recall why we have only two prior links to Alladale in our pages, but here is one more, in the form of a 30 minute podcast and its descriptor page:

How to bring back a forest, and a Scotland of the past, one tree at a time

Listen to the latest episode of THE WILD with Chris Morgan!


Scottish cow at the Alladale Wilderness Reserve.

The wind is really ripping through this valley in the remote Scottish Highlands as I’m zipping along in an ATV. I’m with highlander Innes MacNeil. He’s showing me a few remaining big old trees in the area.

The trees appear like something from a Tolkien novel — remnants of a forgotten time, like a magical connection to the past. There used to be a lot more trees like these across the Highlands. These are anywhere from 250-400 years old — and many are too old to reproduce.

“So these, we would describe them as granny pines,” MacNeil says. “The ones down here in front of us are about 250 to 300 years old, just sat in the bottom of the glen.”

Trees like these once blanketed the region in a thick forest. MacNeil is part of an effort, spearheaded by former businessman-turned conservationist Paul Lister here at Alladale Wilderness Reserve. An effort to bring back that forest and the ecosystem that it supported.

That’s why they’ve planted close to one million saplings over the past 10 years . That’s why they’ve converted a historic estate into a nature reserve. And that’s why MacNeil has stopped the ATV and is reaching for his rifle.

“So the deer, they do need management,” he says. “Clearly, we’ve taken on the role of the predator.”

There hasn’t been an apex predator in the Highlands in more than 300 years, not since the last wolves were seen here. Since then, the deer population exploded . That posed a problem for these tree planters – the deer would eat up a lot of the saplings.

For MacNeil and his team to handle the growing population of deer at the reserve, they have to cull them — selectively kill them.

“So we’re reducing the deer population here to find a more harmonious balance between the deer and the habitat restoration,” MacNeil says while spying a herd of red deer in the distance…

Read the whole story here.

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