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Highland community sets up charity to buy local forests

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A Highland community has set up a charity to allow it to buy more than 2,700 acres of woodland for a pinewood restoration project.

Community group Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clunes (ABC) Group has teamed up with conservation charity Trees for Life for the proposed community buyout, which is believed to be the first of its kind.

The ABC Group has now formed a charity, called Arkaig Community Forest, to take the £500,000 project forward.

It is hoping to buy two forests on the south side of Loch Arkaig, near Spean Bridge in Lochaber, which are currently owned by Forestry Commission Scotland.

Gary Servant, a trustee of the new charity, said that it was a great opportunity for the local community as it would enable them to secure real benefits in terms of sustainable rural development.

It would also enable them to support local land-based jobs, while helping to protect and restore the ecologically important, but rare native Caledonian pinewood habitat.

Mr Servant said: “We were advised that the land would need to be owned by a charity so we have set up a new charity with local people as trustees and associate members.

“We would also welcome supporters from anywhere else as we now face the huge task of raising £500,000.”

He added that they had been waiting for the charity to be approved by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and now have 12 months to raise the money.

He said: “The fund-raising can now start in earnest.

“We will be making funding applications to various bodies and organisations and working out how to generate an income based on the timber that is in the forest already.

“We will also be looking at the possibility of selling community shares.”

Meanwhile, the charity will continue the work started by the ABC Group of consulting local people on possible uses for the land.

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