A tree planting scheme being run throughout the length of the Western Isles has been saved from the brink of collapse.
The Outer Hebrides Croft Woodlands Project was hit after losing its community wind farm funding following the break in the power cable between Lewis and Harris and the mainland.
Point and Sandwick Trust set up the woodlands project, in partnership with the Woodland Trust and others. But it has been left without any income for up to 18 months as it cannot export its power and sell to the national grid due to the cable failure.
The disaster forced the wind farm organisation to suspend its programme of grants to good causes, including the woodlands project.
But the Woodlands Trust has stepped in, agreeing to fund the project for a year to allow the work to continue.
The move keeps Croft Woodlands Project Officer Viv Halcrow in post, secures the plantation of around 50,000 trees in croft land throughout the Hebrides in the 2020/21 planting season, and enables the project to continue.
Calum Macdonald, development manager for the community wind farm, said: “This is fantastic news and we are very grateful to the Woodland Trust for stepping into the breach and allowing the momentum of this scheme to be continued.
“It’s a great example of partnership working and we are determined to continue this scheme into the long-term to leave a legacy for the islands and future generations.”
He added: “Although our income has been cut off, we hope to continue working in partnership during this period with other groups, such as the Woodland Trust, to benefit the islands.”
Eleanor Garty, outreach manager for the Woodland Trust, said they hoped that their decision to fund the project for one year would provide “one small ray of light in a gloomy situation.”
The numbers of trees being planted every year has steadily increased, with a total of 40,990 planted in the first two years (16/17 and 17/18) and 32,030 last year (the 19/20 season).
At the end of last season the total number of trees planted was 91,425, slightly short of the 100,000 target by 2020 due to the impacts of lockdown, particularly the closure of nurseries.
However, that milestone will be passed soon, with a projected 142,245 trees in the ground under the project by 2021.
This season, the project is on track to plant around 50,000 trees between October and April.
They are being planted right throughout the islands, from Barra to Lewis.
Had the project folded, certain schemes would definitely not have proceeded this year, at a loss of 10,000 trees.