A Sutherland-based farmer is set to grow the largest woodland to be approved by Scottish Forestry this century.

The new 933-ha woodland will stretch over 12 km along Strath Carnaig.

Dornoch farmer, Ken Greenland, worked closely with Scottish Forestry’s Highland and Islands Conservancy team to approve the plan, which aims to increase the biodiversity of the Cambusmore estate.

Nearly all the new trees – 1.4 million in total – will be native species, mostly scots pine and birch with rowan, oak, aspen and alder. The plan will also see natural regeneration to help grow the woodland over time. Around 58 ha has been earmarked for timber production.

Welcoming the approval of the plans, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This woodland creation scheme is significant, not only in size, but also in importance. It is a welcome boost towards our national tree planting targets which are key in our efforts to tackle the current climate emergency.

“The scheme is also a great example of farming being fully integrated with forestry. This approach benefits both the farming business and the environment at the same time.”

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The planting and natural regeneration will expand woodland onto about one third of the land, enabling Mr Greenland to rationalise and improve his hill grazing.

Integrating the new woodland with his farming business is a key objective for Mr Greenland, as is increasing the biodiversity on the estate. He said: “I want to improve my hill grazing and introduce more cattle, whilst operating within the land which is under Special Protection Area status.

“The planting is nearly all of native species as I really want to increase the habitat for the amazing range of wildlife species we have on the ground. I believe that the Highlands can offer both quality food production and a top quality environment.

“My agents have taken great care in developing the plans to ensure that we can accommodate species that need open areas. I also wanted to provide a long-term habitat for a wide range of species whilst also connecting up the fragments of native woodland. It has been a long time in the planning but now I cannot wait to get started with fencing and planting.”

Helen Webb, woodland officer from Scottish Forestry’s Highland and Islands Conservancy, said: “The approval of the woodland creation scheme has taken a good few years to bring to fruition. We have awarded £3.2 million for the scheme which will be planted over a three year period, starting this winter.

“It was a very sensitive application because much of the planting will take place on protected land for important species such as Hen Harriers.

“Detailed surveys and the preparation of an environmental report were undertaken by the applicant and our team worked closely with Cawdor Forestry to ensure all potential impacts were properly mitigated.”

Sarah Toulson, Mr Greenland’s forestry agent with Cawdor Forestry added: “It’s great to see this application approved. It has taken many years to develop and required detailed consultation with NatureScot, Historic Environment Scotland and RSPB.

“Not only is it a significant contribution to the Scottish Government planting targets but it will greatly improve the native woodland and habitat networks in this beautiful part of the world.”

Mr Greenland is currently the local branch NFUS chairman and director of the North Highland Products.

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