The transfer of a forest in a remote Argyll community takes place today (Friday March 26) following successful fundraising by a group of volunteers.
The Kilfinan Community Forest Company (KCFC) near Tighnabruaich, a Scottish charity, raised £130,000 to buy 125 hectares of Acharossan Forest from the Forestry Commission, as a first phase in its greater ambition to buy approximately 450 hectares.
The group had up until the end of March 2010 to buy the forest under the National Forest Land Scheme. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has supported the community with funding of £65,000 in its bid to buy and capitalise on the economic potential of its surrounding forest land.
HIE has been working with the community company and awarded almost £6,000 last year to allow it to prepare documentation on the social and economic impacts that the project would have for the area.
The KCFC area encompasses the settlements of Tighnabruaich, Kames, Ardlamont, Millhouse, Portavadie, Kilfinan and Otter Ferry. Designated a fragile area by HIE, the area has faced significant decline in recent years with the loss of jobs and a fall in population from 3,500 to 700 in 50 years. The group believe that a community forest behind the village will breathe new life into the area and retain young people and families.
Welcoming the news of the transfer, Helen Macdougall, community land advisor at HIE, said: “HIE is delighted to support KCFC to progress its case for ownership of the forest. The group has worked for many years to get to this stage and the transfer of the land will now benefit the people who live and work there and give the community control over the way their land is managed. Ownership of land gives the community greater power to shape their own futures as well as providing real rights and opportunities to help them realise their aspirations.”
David Blair, director of KCFC said: “Our community company has worked for the last five years towards the purchase of the forest. Now that the forest is owned by the community we can get people working, training, volunteering, living and playing in the forest. We may even see some of the first woodland crofts emerge with potential to provide housing, business opportunities and enhanced biodiversity. Certainly we want to develop a project which is exemplary in terms of environmental and economic sustainability and education.”