Timber Extraction Underway at Arkaig
Felling and extraction of 70,000 tonnes of non-native timber has started at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest near Spean Bridge in Lochaber. The mammoth effort will free remaining native trees to take back the site in one of the biggest Caledonian pinewood restorations ever attempted.
Woodland Trust Scotland and local charity Arkaig Community Forest bought the spectacular 2,500 acre site in 2016.
A huge amount of preparation has been required since then to allow us to start extracting timber. The bridge over the River Arkaig had to be strengthened and the access track into Glen Mallie upgraded to accommodate the vehicles removing the timber. COVID19 delayed us by a year but we have finally reached what is a major turning point for the restoration of the site.
Loch Arkaig Pine Forest has two of just 84 remaining fragments of ancient Caledonian pinewood in Scotland. Its ancient, wide-crowned ‘granny’ pines were in danger of dying out without reproducing – squeezed out by non-native commercial conifers planted in the 1960s. 70,000 tonnes of mainly Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine will be removed over the next five years to allow the remaining Scots pine and other native trees to repopulate the landscape.
The project is being partly funded thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Loch Arkaig Pine Forest comprises two blocks of woodland – Glen Mallie which can be reached via the new upgraded track, and The Gusach which is usually visited by boat. Woodland Trust Scotland plans to barge timber out over the loch from this more remote block starting in 2022.
Woodland Trust and Arkaig Community Forest bought the site in 2016 from Forest Enterprise Scotland under the National Forest Land Scheme. Their aim is to restore native woodland habitats; re-connect local people with the management and stewardship of the site; and use the woods to underpin sustainable rural development in the nearby communities of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clunes.
Ten tree seed collection volunteers have been recruited for a two-year pilot project to supply seeds for direct seeding, enrichment planting, and woodland creation in and around Loch Arkaig Pine Forest. Their efforts will also support the establishment of a local tree nursery based at Clunes run by Arkaig Community Forest. All demands for local provenance seedlings will be met.
Arkaig Community Forest has also been developing a deer larder and a woodlot scheme adding value to these local resources.