Science | December 7, 2020 12:15 pm

An Ambitious Rewilding Project Is Coming to the Isle of Skye

Including hundreds of thousands of newly planted trees

Dunvegan Castle
Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye.
PaulT (Gunther Tschuch)/Creative Commons

In recent years, the concept of rewilding certain parts of the globe has gained a lot of momentum. Isabella Tree’s book Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm offers a good primer to readers unfamiliar with the practice, which includes returning plants and animals native to a landscape to that region. In the United States, that’s manifested itself in initiatives to return wolves to parts of the country to re-establish a more balanced ecosystem.

The latest high-profile example of rewilding comes from across the Atlantic — specifically, the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The Daily Mail reports that Hugh MacLeod, who is the 30th Chief of Clan MacLeod, has an ambitious plan to rewild the land around Dunvegan Castle.

Parts of the castle date back to the 13th century, and MacLeod’s plan involves restoring the landscape to the way it may have looked in centuries past. This includes the planting of over 370,000 trees, including birch, rowan and cherry trees. MacLeod hopes that this will also draw other animal populations to the area, including beavers and red squirrels.

MacLeod spoke highly of the ambitious plan. “This project aims to restore this piece of land and it will have a positive ripple effect on the local community beyond the obvious ecological benefits, creating more jobs in sustainable eco-tourism and more rewilding initiatives,” he told The Daily Mail.

The plan is being carried out with a grant from the Scottish government and the European Union; currently, the pan is to have the planting of the new trees completed next year. It’s a bold change to the landscape, though it’s also less an alteration than a restoration.