«Appendix 6 Glenmallie and South Loch Arkaig Forests Draft Community Forest Management Plan Prepared on behalf of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig & Clunes Group ...»
Glenmallie and South Loch Arkaig Forests
Draft Community Forest Management Plan
Prepared on behalf of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig & Clunes Group (ABC Group) in support of
their application to purchase Glenmallie and South Loch Arkaig Forests under the National
Forest Land Scheme.
Jamie Mcintyre and Gary Servant
with the support of the ABC Forestry/Renewables Steering Group
This report outlines the nature of the forest blocks of Glenmallie and South Loch Arkaig,
which are being disposed of by FCScotland under the 'National Forest Land Scheme:
Sponsored Sale of Surplus Land'. It further outlines the process of local decision making which has taken place over the past four months to arrive at this point, and makes a number of firm business-planning proposals to take forward the process of community acquisition and management of a substantial and potentially challenging forest containing a mixture of native pinewood remnants, other native woodland habitats and non-native conifers. Initial projections suggest that forest management could support around 2 full time equivalent posts in the forestry/land management sector, and if successful in overcoming the very significant challenges of the site then the harvesting and marketing of the commercial timber could generate a significant net income to the community by year 5 of the project.
The report is designed initially to complement the ABC Group NFLSapplication to Forestry Commission Scotland, and should be read in conjunction with the 12 Appendices listed in Section 9 below.
'Fully a quarter mile west of the waterfall, a rough road branches off to the left and is bridged over the River Arkaig where this river leaves the loch of the same name. This road curves along the south side of Loch Arkaig into the lonely fastnesses of Glen Mallie. If you wish the real thing in untamed nature, tramp into this glen where you will feel that the realm of business and machinery belongs to another world, for here among the rugged hills clad with heather and noble pines and firs - some of the finest specimens in Scotland - is a haunt of red deer and golden eagle as well as hill fox and wild cat. The huge forest which clad this region until the Second World War, is, unfortunately now sadly depleted because in April 1942, while the Commandos were training here, there was a great forest fire which destroyed about three thousand acres of magnificent trees, and the scars are still to heal.' D. B. MacCulloch, Romantic Lochaber, Arisaig and Morar, 1971.
'It has been said that Scotland's semi-natural woods, today, are not markedly different to what existed 250 years ago, in extent at least. Can we, however, really believe that the seminatural woods are like the woods that our ancestors knew 250 years ago? Perhaps this is easier to believe when standing among the ancient warrior pines of Loch Arkaig, some of which may already have been well grown in 1746 when the Jacobites were being flushed out from their wooded sanctuaries by Hanoverian fire.'
'There was a very extensive and excellent wood.... ; but much of it was cut down about twenty years ago. There is still remaining, on the south side of Locharkaig, a considerable
quantity of excellent fir, and of great size:
'Between the extremes of deep wilderness and the private plots of the farmstead lies a territory which is not suitable for crops. In earlier times it was used jointly by the members of a given tribe or village. This area, embracing both the wild and the semi-wild, is of critical importance. It is necessary for the health of the wilderness because it adds big habitat, overflow territory, and room for wildlife to fly and run. It is essential even to an agricultural village economy because its natural diversity provides the many necessities and amenities that the privately held plots cannot.'
1. The Woodlands
2. Background to project
3. Project Proposal
4. Management proposals S. Project Delivery
6. Project Finance
9. List of Appendices
1. The Woodlands The woodlands which form the subject of this plan comprise two forest blocks on the south shore of Loch Arkaig in Lochaber, Glenmallie (578 ha) and South Loch Arkaig (519 hal. They lie on predominantly north-facing slopes above the loch cut by numerous burns and smaller watercourses, though with areas of gentler topography occurring in the Glenmallie block where it meets Glen Mallie itself.
Both are ancient woodland sites originally consisting of native Caledonian pinewood, mixed with other native woodland and non-woodland habitats, and forming part of a more extensive native pinewood area which once extended almost uninterrupted from Loch Lochy to the head of Loch Arkaig (as shown on the 1860 OS maps of the area - for example).
This forest was once famed for its fine timber, being mentioned in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, and the timber resource was heavily exploited from the 18th century onwards.
Following a fire during military training during the Second World War, much of the remaining forest was severely damaged and the stark remnants of dead Scots Pine trees from this fire still dominate the landscape of Glen Mallie.
The woodlands were surveyed by Steven & Carlisle as part of their seminal work on the Native Pinewoods of Scotland, and more recently have been included in Forestry Commission's Caledonian Pinewood Inventory. Despite their importance and their persistence on the site over millenia however, they have been degraded in recent centuries by large-scale exploitation for timber followed by intensive fire and herbivore impacts and by inappropriate management.
As well as historic exploitation and the devastating 20th century fire mentioned earlier, the woodlands in question were underplanted with non-native softwood species in the 1970s.
Significantly, however, less than half of the total area consists of potentially harvestable commercial conifers, some of which will mature in the next decade. Much of this was planted in and amongst ancient semi-natural woodland - including a core area (100-150 hal of nationally important Caledonian Native Pinewood habitat. The area around Loch Arkaig is also home to a variety of high-profile wildlife species including Black Grouse, various large Raptors, Pine Marten, Red Deer and Wild Boar.
The woodlands are currently bounded by deer fencing which appears to be largely in relatively good condition. Deer numbers have been controlled by FCSwithin the enclosures, and they have also spent considerable sums in the past on native woodland restoration -in particular removing non-native conifers through fell-to-recycle operations.
Access to both blocks is currently extremely restricted. Glenmallie is accessed by a forest road (not suitable for lorries) which itself is accessed either via a bridge with a 3 tonne weight restriction on it or via the private/unadopted access road to Achnacarry from Bunarkaig. There is no access to South Loch Arkaig except on foot.
2. Background to Project
The ABC Group was formed in November 2007 as a constituted community group specifically to address local issues and build local capacity in a relatively remote and fragile rural area.
The area seemingly received little recognition or support from elsewhere, it had a variety of infrastructure problems (no broadband, antiquated private water supplies and a dilapidated village hall for example), was surrounded by forest but with little or no forest-based employment or engagement with FCS,and there was no voice on even the local Community Council.
Since then the Group has secured a lease and renovated the village hall, held regular meetings and arranged various social events, helped to install a (satellite/radio) broadband service and can now boast 3 active community councillors on the Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Achnacarry Community Council. The group was formally incorporated as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO)in September 2013 to support and promote sustainable community development in the local area.
At around the same time (mid-September 2013) and with no prior notice or discussion locally, FCSnotified the community of its intention to sell the two woodlands under its 'repositioning programme'. Under the terms of the National Forest Land Scheme (NFLS),the community has 'first refusal' to acquire such land under arrangements for the Sponsored Sale of Surplus Land. This measure of the NFLSis subject to a very tight timescale and this, coupled with the notification of the sale itself coming so soon after their incorporation as a SCIO,and the lack of development worker support during this crucial early phase has posed real challenges for the ABC Group.
However, the Group decided to notify an interest ahead of the mid-October deadline and later jointly instructed a valuation of the woods prior to the second deadline of 12th December 2013. An open meeting for ABC members on the forest acquisition project was held on January 15th 2014 (minutes available), following which the valuation report was published on 22nd January (see Appendix 11). Subsequent steering group meetings have further explored the proposal, and National Lottery Investing in Ideas funding was eventually secured in early-February to cover the costs of professional support for business planning and community engagement, and for the costs of delivery of the postal ballot.
The postal ballot of electors in PH34 4EJand 4EL opened on Monday 3rd February and closed on Monday 17 February. Ballot papers were circulated along with a brief 'Question and Answer' document (see Appendix 12). The ballot resulted in a narrow majority in favour of the acquisition (52%), with a good level of engagement (73% turnout) and a relatively high proportion of voters (48%) who nonetheless did not support the initial proposal of community acquisition of the woodlands as outlined in the Q&A. Accordingly the ABC Group has secured a mandate from the community for the project, as required by the terms of the NFLS.
The steering group is conscious that the ballot result was close and that there remain some members of the community still to be persuaded of the merits of this proposal. We believe the very recent positive developments outlined in this document and involving the proposed partnership with Trees for Ufe will increase confidence in and support for the project, but recognise that more work is needed to bring local people on board as we further develop the project. We hope that a proposed community planning event in April and an exchange visit to the Knoydart Foundation and Knoydart Forest Trust later in the Spring will also help to increase community support and engagement.
Much work has been carried out to confirm the project proposal, given the restricted timescale available under the Sponsored Sale of Surplus Land and the delayed announcement of funding support for business planning for the project. However, significant detail remains to be confirmed during the 18 month purchase period, should the project be granted approval. Nevertheless, the steering group considers the proposal outlined in this document forms the basis of a workable, robust and sustainable project.
3. Project Proposal Organisational Structure As a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SClO)the ABC Group is a suitable applicant to the NFLS,but is unlikely to be a suitable vehicle for the management and delivery of an ambitious landscape-scale forestry and community land management initiative such as this in the longer term.
The community of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clunes is a small one, and though the majority of local residents are ABC Group members, the Group is still a small organisation with considerable capacity issues of its own. There is a strong feeling - amongst current office bearers of the ABC Group in particular, that a new organisation should be formed to own and manage the woodlands. The exact structure of the new Group remains to be agreed, however its creation has the potential to include other stakeholders and partners in the management of the project and thereby increase its capacity and the resources available to it (subject to continuing to meet the NFLScriteria and others required of community organisations more generally).
The value of this approach is already being confirmed, as in recognition of the constraints imposed by the size of the community in tackling a very large and challenging project, the steering group decided to begin informal discussions with external partners to support the project, and these approaches have already started to bear fruit. A proposal (see Appendix
10) has been made by a potential conservation NGO partner - Trees for Life - and discussions are ongoing on both sides to secure an agreement.
Potential partnership with a conservation NGO In seeking a potential external partner, the steering group wished to identify one that would be attracted by the unique importance of the native pinewood habitats, have an established track record in working in them, and be able to bring expertise and resources to the project.
In Trees for Life, they have found an organisation with all these attributes and an excellent fit with the community project (for more information see http://www.treesforlife.org.ukJ).
Trees for Life have confirmed their enthusiasm to join the project and their willingness to bring significant funding to it. Discussions are still at an early and informal stage and as mentioned earlier will need to reflect the requirements of both public funders and the NFLS, as well as being acceptable to Trees for Life and the project steering group.
Under the initial proposal outlined in Appendix 10, Trees for Life could take primary responsibility for native woodland restoration activities, involving conservation volunteers and/or (locally-based) contractors as appropriate. The local community would take primary responsibility for the community-benefit activities, to include harvesting and extraction of non-native conifers where commercially viable, the development of rural development forestry aspects such as firewood production, woodland crofts, Woodlot Licences and huts/cabin leases, and the development of renewables.