Highlands Rewilding Ltd is a mass ownership company which emerged from the Bunloit Rewilding Project. This project began on Bunloit Estate, on the shores of Loch Ness, in 2020, with the purpose of enabling nature recovery and community prosperity through rewilding.
When climate campaigner and former director of an international solar company, Jeremy Leggett, founded the project, he set aside a year to confer with a wide range of organisations and individuals in the areas of ecology, carbon, rewilding, forestry, nature-based solutions research, Scottish land management, the local community, rural housing, the Council and the Scottish Government.
Then things moved quickly – 22 members of staff (and counting!) formed our team, many local, and Beldorney Estate, in Aberdeenshire, was acquired. Carbon and biodiversity baselines of Bunloit were measured in detail through 2021. Rangers and student interns worked with a group of expert collaborators on surveys, including use of cutting-edge tech to enable maximum granularity in the data. Results were presented in our Natural Capital Report at COP26. Furthermore, it was announced that Beldorney will host the COP26 Innovation Zone legacy “Forest of Hope”, in a collaboration led by Highlands Rewilding and the Cabrach Trust, a rural regeneration charity. The forest will extend from existing broadleaf riparian woodland, down the valley into neighbouring land, where partnerships are aligning to rewild as much of the river valley as possible.
Natural Capital verification science is one of the areas in which we seek to lead by example. An example of this is the Outdoor Education and Environmental Science Classes led by our rangers with the local high school over Autumn and Winter. Others include community involvement in rewilding, ethically profitable land management, innovative financing, and land reform in the Highlands.
Existential threats of climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse cannot be tackled without community involvement and we aim to engage with local communities. An example of this is the Outdoor Education Classes led by our rangers with the local high school in Autumn. Getting hands on with food forest planting, bird box building, deer lardering and bush craft – feedback was fantastic and shows the importance of nature in education.
Addressing issues of land ownership inequality is incredibly important. As is scaling up rewilding efforts. Highlands Rewilding Ltd was launched for these purposes and will scale the work of the Bunloit Rewilding Project, by replicating locally appropriate versions on other suitable tracts of land across the Highlands, the first being Beldorney estate.
Following the initial successful “founding funders” round, Highlands Rewilding intends to continue in 2022 with a mass-outreach crowdfunding campaign. The idea is that with a low minimum investment, “citizen rewilders” could own shares in rewilding land, hopefully many being Scots and from local communities. We will be working as closely as we can with communities, including via joint ventures with community organisations.
The Highlands Rewilding board, with strong Highland presence, at least 50% female, and younger generations well represented, will eventually become trustees of “The Highlands Rewilding Trust”. They will ensure that co-ownership and value held by Highlands Rewilding will be for the benefit of Highlands residents long into the future.