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The featured topic for discussion will be a proposal to plant crop and woodland trees over large areas of the hills above Auchtertyre, from Kirkton to Nostie Bridge, from Auchtertyre to 4 Km north, beside the A890. The site consists of 197 hectares of wild land – our surroundings.

BACKGROUND Last October L.C.C. received an envelope from the Forestry Commission, Scotland (FCS) containing notice of an application to develop the Auchtertyre hills as a 'woodland creation' scheme plus a CD with various associated documents. The envelope was opened at the last L.C.C. meeting and the next night it was shown to James Merryweather who had been unable to attend.

As an ecologist with knowledge of the hills, James felt the need to do something about the application to develop the site 197 hectares of relatively wild land with many important wildlife features he had been studying since arriving in 2004. The public consultation was due to close four days later and two of those were weekend when FCS would be shut.

He urgently contacted our chairman and secretary, Tim and Adrienne Sowood, Janet Ullman (Auchtertyre naturalist) and consultant zoologist Roger Cottis of Isleornsay who had been waiting to be called in to conduct a mammal survey. This small group submitted letters to the FCS critical of the scheme.

Shortly before Christmas the scheme was suddenly approved, not only with several major deficiencies but also with unseemly haste that was justifiably perceived here as not adequately allowing for involvement of the Lochalsh community. We few who knew about it did not have sufficient information (or time!) to let people know what was being planned for their environment without their consent.

This issue is complicated. Why plant trees? Why not plant trees? Trees have been planted before (1996) and most of them failed to grow. This experience plus local knowledge of the landscape, ecological and amenity value of the site suggest that it should be left as it is, beautiful natural countryside, not planted with crops for profit. The absentee land-owner thinks otherwise. In time Auchtertyre's surroundings could resemble Aird Hill as it is today or Avernish Hill as it is becoming right now, as the Sitka Spruces are clear felled.

James wrote a Discussion Document, which he sent to the forestry commission's conservation officer in charge of the application, his line managers, the land-owner's agent and our MSP and local councillor. It expressed his dismay with how the application was being handled and discussed in detail the many reasons why the project was a bad idea. Kate Forbes MSP replied with the offer of a meeting later this month - eagerly accepted.

To find out a lot more about this issue please CLICK HERE to go to online versions of full colour posters explaining the pros and cons of this case (mostly cons).  For comfortable viewing, click on the thumbnail images to see enlarged versions (and you can enlarge again). The posters can be downloaded for saving and printing.

To discuss the issue with James please e-mail:
huntsup(at)the yorkwaits.org.uk
or Tel: 566291



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