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Concern over trees being removed from the side of Loch Ness

By Louise Glen

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Roderick Mackenzie is concerned about trees being felled by Loch Ness.
Roderick Mackenzie is concerned about trees being felled by Loch Ness.

An environmentalist is concerned about a large volume of trees being removed from the forests by the side of Loch Ness.

Musician Roderick Mackenzie, from Inverness, said he was alarmed by what he thought were huge gaps in the Ness-side landscape because of over-harvesting during the coronavirus lockdown.

Forestry and Land Scotland who manage the land said it was not removing any more trees than normal from the landscape but said the fact it was taking out more mature trees might make their absence more noticeable.

Mr Mackenzie (71) said: “Maybe it is because the A82 is quieter and we have longer to stop and look at the landscape, but I have been keeping records and I believe that there has been a much higher volume of trees being removed from the lochside during the coronavirus lockdown.

“The end of April and start of May was particularly bad and I now notice that there are huge gaps where mature trees once were.

“Evidence from other areas of Scotland is that removing trees only leads to landslides.”

Keith Black, Forestry and Land Scotland’s north region steep ground manager, conceded the work was leaving a noticeable gap on the landscape.

“The A82 work, which was started in 2012 and should take 10-15 years to complete, is part of our ongoing steep ground harvesting programme,” he said.

“Through this programme we are harvesting trees and making safe the hillsides that we manage above the A82.

“It looks dramatic but we are not felling any more trees than would be the case at another site but, because they are so mature and so massive, their absence is more noticeable.”

He continued: “These trees are a potential risk to the A82 because their age and size makes them more susceptible to wind throw and one or more of them falling on to the road surface would create unplanned disruption for road users and potentially damage infrastructure such as power lines.

“If we don’t do this now then the challenges, costs and risks involved would also increase substantially. However, all of the work that we do will strengthen the hillside in the long term and improve the resilience of the A82.

“When we fell the trees, we leave the existing roots and vegetation intact to help hold the soil in place and additional measures such as catch fences or soil stabilisation will also help. Over the longer term regenerated or replanted trees will also stabilise the ground even further. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that – as with any other steep hillside – some future extreme weather event might have an impact on the hillsides.”

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