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March 17, 2010

There’s something about trees

Twenty years ago, the idea of communities owning and managing woodland was virtually unheard of.    But it only takes a few folk with a good idea and enough conviction to make something happen.  What started at Wooplaw Woodland in the Scottish Borders has evolved into one of the country’s fastest growing movements – 100 community land owners and about the same number again who manage woodland in partnership with others.  Now a group on Skye are bidding to become the next

JOHN ROSS, The Scotsman

Islanders balloted on chance to buy forest

An island community is being asked to support moves which could see it become the latest area to own its own woodland.
Ballot papers were sent out to residents in Sleat, on Skye, to gauge support for a purchase of the 1,000-acre Tormore forest.

Forestry Commission Scotland has advertised Tormore, valued at £330,000, as surplus land and the Sleat Community Trust now has 18 months to find the funds.

The trust hopes a local purchase would generate new jobs, provide new income and create tourism activities as well as forest crofts.

Sleat is the latest in a growing number of communities which are now owners of, or are in the process of taking over, woodlands across Scotland.

Less than 20 years ago there were no formal community woodland groups, but now there are more than 100 owners and another 100 local groups who manage land in partnership with other organisations.

Last month, the Bute Community Land Company was given local backing to buy the 1,700-acre Rhubodach Forest, owned by film director Lord Richard Attenborough, for £1.4 million.

Aigas Community Forest steering group is also trying to raise £750,000 to buy 700 acres of woodland after its bid for Aigas Forest was accepted by Forestry Commission Scotland.

It also plans to create forest crofts, as well as small-scale timber production, a renewable energy scheme and wants to expand wildlife tourism in the area which is close to the renowned Aigas Field Centre.

Andrew Leaver, the steering group secretary, said: “We want to make sure that it works as an asset for the community and produces an income that can be re-invested in the forest.

“We want people to see that the forest can be used by folk. We do not want to buy it and then close it down, we want to open it up to things like recreation.”