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Highland Council report on tree planting project in response to climate emergency

By Rachel Smart

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Willow trees planted in Merkinch, Inverness.
Willow trees planted in Merkinch, Inverness.

Highland Council teams have been working to improve biodiversity across the region by embarking on an ambitious tree planting project.

An element of the local authority’s response to the ecological and climate emergency, declared in 2019, involved an action for the teams to identify and implement biodiversity enhancements on council-owned land across Highland.

During the 2023/24 winter planting season the Council’s Greenspace Officer has been managing a number of planting events across the region, and this has resulted in the planting of 2,700 trees.

These include: 22 fruit trees at Riverside Park, Nairn ; 240 native trees at Torvean Park, Inverness; and 1000 native trees, 98 fruit trees for orchard creation, wildflower seed and invasive species removal plan at Merkinch Nature Reserve.

The species which have been planted include Alder, Silver Birch, Hazel, Rowan, Aspen, Pendunculate Oak, White Poplar, Cherry, Oak, Golden and Goat Willow, Beech, Apple, Plum, and Pear.

As well as the ongoing planting projects the Environment team has been working closely with the Amenities team on greenspace management practices and how these can be optimised to ensure set-aside areas are as nature friendly as possible.

Chair of Highland Council’s Communities and Place Committee, Councillor Graham MacKenzie, said: “I am delighted to hear about the amazing progress being made by these teams, and it is so heartening to see the growth of biodiversity-positive initiatives like the tree planting project.

“It is also encouraging to hear about the team’s collaborative discussions with the Amenities team on how best to manage Council-owned land for the promotion of wildlife and flora.”

The teams are working on a host of other biodiversity initiatives, which it hopes will lead to the creation of a Highland Nature Network.

Environment team leader, Andrew Puls, said: “Ultimately we would like to create a network of biodiverse greenspace sites which will provide nature steppingstones and connections through our towns and villages, to the more rural, biodiverse land.”

NatureScot’s chief executive, Francesca Osowska added: “Nature loss and climate change are two of the biggest threats facing Scotland, so it is vital we work to restore nature at scale and at pace across the country.

“Highland Council’s tree planting projects are an important contribution to this national effort, and we congratulate the teams who have undertaken this valuable work.

“We very much support the ambition of a Highland Nature Network, which would bring many benefits for people and wildlife across the region.”

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