Conservation charity Trees for Life was founded in 1993 and has worked with over 5,000 volunteers, planting nearly 2 million trees across 44 tree planting sites. But rewilding is not simply about planting trees – supporting wildlife which has suffered loss of habitat is also a vital part of Trees for Life work. Some recent achievements include a 50% increase in black grouse, golden eagles nesting for the first time in 40 years at the charity’s Dundreggan estate, and introducing over 200 red squirrels across the northwest Highlands.

Trees for Life also works to inspire people of all ages and background to be involved in rewilding to improve wellbeing and to develop new skills. The charity runs conservation weeks for volunteers and traineeships in rewilding and partners with other charities to provide healing to people who have experienced trauma.

The charity has been instrumental in forming the Scottish Rewilding Alliance, a coalition of more than 20 environmental organisations calling for Scotland to become the world’s first ‘rewilding nation’, returning 30% of land and sea to nature by 2030.

The Rewilding Centre at Dundreggan

The new Rewilding Centre at the Trees for Life Dundreggan estate in Glenmoriston will showcase the recovery of nature and allow visitors to explore wild landscapes, discover Gaelic culture and learn about the region’s unique wildlife all year round. The £6 million attraction is expected to open to the public in spring 2023 and welcome over 70,000 visitors annually by 2030.

Steve Micklewright, CEO of Trees for Life said that: “Scotland, the UK and the wider world need a place where rewilding can be explored, undertaken and shared. That is why we want to create the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan, a place where rewilding has been happening since 2008. The centre will offer recreational and educational experiences for people of all ages to enjoy the natural landscape and learn about the forest and rewilding, with the accommodation building being used for longer immersive experiences, including volunteering and educational trips.”

The centre will also boost the rural economy through at least 15 new local jobs. An all-weather visitor centre, café and events space will act as the gateway to fully accessible trails, child-friendly forest experiences and more adventurous walks, while an accessible accommodation space will allow for longer educational and volunteering stays.

Income generated by the centre will support Trees for Life in their aim to rewild the Scottish Highlands. They plan to increase woodland cover at Dundreggan alone from 26% to 41% over the next 10 years. 

The corporate finance team at Triodos Bank recently worked with Trees for Life to help raise £2m from impact investors to part-fund the development of the visitor centre and accommodation. The balance of funding is being provided by grants, donations and the charity’s reserves.

Triodos Bank’s work on nature-based investments

Triodos Bank UK began working on nature-based investments five years ago and sponsored the UK’s first conference on the concept in 2018. The concept of nature-based investing is still in the early stages of development and Triodos is lead advisor on four national pilot projects for nature-based investments with the first nearing completion. We also expect to announce our own first direct loan to a rewilding project in the near future.