We will restore habitats across 60,000 hectares of connected land within the Cairngorms National Park - from the River Spey to the summit of Ben MacDui, Britains 2nd highest mountain. Ours is a 200-year vision, to restore woodland to its natural limit, including high altitude montane woodlands; restore blanket bog and forest bogs, and restore natural processes to river floodplains. These restoration projects will deliver benefits to people: reducing flood-risk, storing carbon, and providing homes for wildlife, as well as great places for people to visit. We will also build awareness and involvement - locally, nationally and internationally.
We haven’t labelled Cairngorms Connect as a ‘rewilding’ project. Until recently, the term ‘rewilding’ has implied the reintroduction of large predators, which is something to which we are not currently willing to commit. More recently ‘rewilding’ is being redefined in Britain, in alignment with the use of the term more widely in Europe - this focusses on restoration of habitats and natural processes. There are many elements of our vision that are shared by the rewildling movement, e.g restoring habitats, and doing so at a large scale. We are intervening with direct management, but our aim is to reach those tipping-points at which more natural processes can ‘take over’. Ultimately, we would like to be able to stand back from intervening, but that is a long way off.
Cairngorms Connect certainly covers an area, and habitat types, that would be suited to lynx reintroduction. The partnership believes that, in ecological terms, there is potential to host lynx here. However, know that such reintroductions can cause unease amongst some land managers, without whose support such reintroductions would face many difficulties. The partnership is interested in finding out more about the potential for lynx reintroduction to the Cairngorms Connect area, and the challenges that such a reintroduction would face. However, there is much to do before a reintroduction could happen. It is not a project on which we intend to take a lead.
We don’t believe that the Cairngorms Connect area alone is sufficient to accommodate wolves, so any reintroduction of this species would need to encompass a much larger area of Scotland. We also recognise that reintroduction of wolves is a highly emotive subject. Any wolf reintroduction project would need to take proper account of such concerns. This is not a project on which we would take a lead.
Our primary aim is to use the opportunity we have to restore habitats under our management, making better places for wildlife and people. If the project serves as a demonstration of what others could achieve then that would be a great bonus. We recognise that we are operating in a special location and circumstances; it presents us with potential to achieve remarkable things. We can demonstrate an alternative landuse approach that delivers many benefits to people. These benefits might be the kind of outcomes that Governments could support through land management incentives. If we can be a test-bed for a new approach, that is a good thing!
We recognise that we have a fortunate combination of great places to manage, contiguous land-holdings over 600 sq km, and a reasonable funding base that supports our work. Whether others wish to do similar work has to be their decision. Much of the large-scale management we are doing, provides real public benefits in terms of helping to alleviate floods, providing clean water, storing carbon, and providing wildlife-rich environments - as well as great places for people to visit. There are funds available to support much of this work already. Ultimately, we hope incentives will be made available for others to adopt similar management at a large scale, providing yet more public goods.
The partnership is guided by a very clear Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), defining our Vision and how we intend to achieve it. Certainly, there is potential to expand the partnership in the Cairngorms area, and any new partners would need to comply with the intent and commitments defined by our MoU. This is so important to us, that we have a clause that enables us to remove current partners if they are no longer willing or able to comply with the terms set out in the MoU.
Cairngorms Connect is an active and growing partnership. We have opportunities to get involved as volunteers, employment in the partner organisations, through apprenticeships and contracting. To see current opportunities, please go to our website cairngormsconnect.org.uk .
It depends on who you are and what you are looking for. We know that new ideas often receive criticism, and we expect a certain amount of it. However, we hope that, for most people, Cairngorms Connect will bring benefits: we hope that our aims will have some resonance with what people want from an upland landscape - a wilder place, rich in wildlife, and welcoming responsible access. For some, we hope there will be an opportunity to become directly involved: through volunteering, apprenticeships, and paid contract work. Most importantly, we will build appreciation and awareness of this spectacular place, so it becomes even more meaningful for people who are fortunate enough to live in or near the Cairngorms Connect area.
We hope you will see a landscape that is becoming wilder, and a place richer in wildlife. We also hope it’ll be a place about which you feel some pride; a place where you understand what we are doing, and why we are doing it - not just for wildlife but for people too. Finally, we hope it’ll be a place in which you will have an opportunity to become involved.
In short we, can’t. However there is good reason to be optimistic! Some of the partners have been established and active in these areas for a long time. The Forestry Commission has owned and managed Glenmore for almost 100 years, the RSPB has been active at Abernethy for over 60 years and SNH and predecessor organisations have been involved at Invereshie for over 60 years. At Glen Feshie, Wildland Limited has transformed the landscape towards arguably the most spectacular example of woodland regeneration in Scotland; a change that will now be hard to reverse.
No. The partnership is separate from the CNPA, though the project area is entirely within the National Park. Our objectives are aligned with those of the CNPA, and we work closely with the Park staff to help inform our delivery on the ground.