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February 13, 2008

Lewis community turn liability into asset

When the Forestry Commission declared Aline Woodland uneconomic in commercial forestry terms, the Erisort Trust decided to take a closer look at the development potential of the woodland


Aline Community Woodland is the largest community woodland of its type in community ownership within Scotland. The land was acquired by the Erisort Trust from Forestry Commission Scotland in 2005 with support from the Scottish Land Fund. In the 1990s many of the trees had been destroyed as a result of an invasion of pine beauty moths. This created substancial areas of deadwood which tourists viewed as an eyesore.

The Trust however spotted a commercial opportunity as they began to clear the deadwood. A market has been developed for the logs as firewood and kindling. Demand for their product now outstrips supply.

However much of 625 hectares woodland was unaffected by the pine beauty moths and remains an area of remarkable beauty and rich in wildlife, fauna and flora. A detailed forest management plan has been developed which sets out the proposals for planting, improving access, wildlife interpretation, and education and recreational development. Five local people, who have been trained in all aspects of forestry required for the project, have been employed to manage the development work. Training and environmental education will continue to be key aspects of the Trusts work.

A combination of webcams and underwater cameras will beam live pictures of the areas of wildlife to visitors at specially designed shelters and hides. Traditional paths and bridal ways are being upgraded to allow pony trekking and mountain biking to develop. Safe water access is being provided to encourage water based sport. Plans are underway to build five star lodge accommodation for visitors.

The Erisort Trust has been able to develop their plans because of the strong partnerships it has built up with its funders :
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Western Isles Enterprise, Iomairt aig an Oir, Scottish Land Fund, Forestry Commission, Forestry and Rural Development Scheme, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB