Mountain for Sale?

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A conservation charity is hoping to raise £1.6 million to buy a mountain in the north-west Highlands.

TThe Woodland Trust Scotland plans to buy its first mountain – the 543-metre ((1,781ft) Ben Shieldaig in Torridon in the Wester Ross National Scenic Area – after it was put on the market by its private landowner.

Ben Shieldaig is home to two areas of woodland featuring ancient Caledonian pinewood and a temperate rainforest of native birchwood.

The mountain and its surrounds teem with iconic Scottish wildlife including sea eagles, golden eagles, red squirrel, pine marten and otter.

The UK’s smallest dragonfly, the black darter and the vulnerable azure hawker dragonfly have both been recorded there as well as the Red Data Book listed hover fly "Callicera rufa". Ben Shieldaig also offers excellent walking and has spectacular views from the summit towards Skye and the Outer Hebrides.

The trust plans to manage the land by employing a site manager and a project manager.Carol Evans, charity director, said it was a rare opportunity for the trust to bring a whole mountain under its care.

“It already supports a magnificent area of ancient Caledonian pinewood and a temperate rainforest of native birchwood,” she said. “Perhaps even more exciting is the potential to manage these within a mosaic of their natural neighbours.”

Ms Evans added: “We aim to manage the site for wildlife and people and encourage recreational access – perhaps building a small car park and creating a path to a viewpoint for visitors to enjoy. “We will consult with local people about our plans once we secure ownership. Before anything can happen though, we need to raise the money to fund the purchase.”

The trust say natural regeneration of the land combined with planting could triple woodland cover on the mountain.Ben Shieldaig’s pinewood can be traced back to the 
end of the last ice age, which finished about 11,700 years ago.

Ms Evans added: “Our aim is to see native woodland, montane scrub and open moorland habitats meshing naturally with each other from sea to sky.

“That would encapsulate all that a restored landscape can be, not just in Torridon, but across the Highlands.” The trust aims to protect and expand the unique and valuable existing native woodland at Ben Shieldaig through a combination of natural regeneration, new native planting and deer management.

This article appeared in "The Scotsman", January 09 2019


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