Concerns over large tracts of land reclaimed in Cairngorms National Park for carbon offsets

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Fears have been expressed that a modern mini version of Highland Clearances could be triggered by the rush to buy land for carbon offsets.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) is now being asked by some of its own board members to set policies to bring the vast tracts of land that is reclaimed for compensation planting under control.

But CNPA chief executive Grant Moir appeared relatively relaxed about the situation, pointing out that the national park is less forested than the Scottish average and falls well behind the European figure.

The park authority has recently been consulted on several important woodlot proposals.

Board member Deirdre Falconer said there were concerns in Drumguish about what was happening in neighboring Lynaberack and Gaick estates owned by Aviemore-based Wildland Ltd.

She said at the last CNPA board meeting: “There is concern that all of this forest expansion is having a negative effect on communities, and they also want to see evidence that there will be benefits for them. the region, flora and fauna.

“We have to be very honest and open about what the pros and cons of this regeneration and wood plantation will do to the local area in terms of biodiversity and landscape, etc.

“If that means people are going to be kicked out of their farms and estates, that’s not something I would want to put my name on as a board member.

“We need a policy on who comes to the park to buy land and what their reasons are for doing so.”

Another board member, Eleanor Mackintosh, supported the call: “The reason communities are worried is not so much about the trees coming in, but about rewilding. This is what really concerns the communities.

“They just can’t see a future for themselves in this scenario.

“I think we need to have a position on this, and we need to have it urgently so that we can then go to the Scottish Government and report our case if there is one to be done.”

Board member and farmer John Kirk believes that much of the carbon credit money will not benefit local communities, adding: “The next generation will be appalled if we plant trees that are not theirs. ‘no use. The rewilding will be a total waste of time.

Board colleague Willie Munro also cautioned against the national park becoming a magnet for carbon offsetting companies.

CNPA board member Pippa Hadley, who is also a local Highland Councilor for the Scottish Greens, believes the benefits of carbon offsetting and rewilding are not being adequately highlighted. She is pictured walking through the local woods with her dog Hunter.

But board member Pippa Hadley said: “I understand fear, and that when people don’t communicate visions, people can be very concerned about their place in it.”

She said there was plenty of readily available evidence that rewilding could create a good number of jobs and urged those involved to share their success stories.

Ms Hadley continued: “I recently spoke to Balavil Estate about their last grouse shoot. They bagged six grouse; that was all.

“But the postman said the highlight of the trip was the fact that the group saw sea eagles, a golden eagle and many types of wildlife.”

“The postman said that in 10 years they will do pretty much what they are doing now, but there will be a change of balance and they will call themselves rangers.

“He said all jobs will be secure, but they will change and evolve with the landscape, but there will always be a place for them.

“There really is something to be said for all the concerns we hear about getting ahead and communicating the positive benefits and not just bumping our gums.”

Mr. Moir pointed out that almost all forest management applications are already the subject of public consultations and that the CNPA has no power over land transactions.

He said: “The average forest cover in Cairngorms National Park is around 15%, which is lower than the Scottish average, and the European average is 37%, so we are one of the most popular places. less wooded in Europe.

“I agree that we need to discuss, but the only thing I would say is that a lot of people have bought land in the national park over the past 20 years for a lot of things, but we don’t seem to have been particularly upset by this.

“Carbon money could be extremely beneficial for the park, but if it’s done badly, there are problems.

“I think one of the things is to make sure there are benefits to the community, and that’s something for our political position rather than necessarily some of the other comments that have been made.”

A CNPA spokesperson said after the meeting: “The Cairngorms National Park partnership plan will be subject to public consultation next week, and there is a good opportunity to discuss policies regarding use, ownership. and future land management as part of that. “

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