On 20th May 2012, Trees for Life, the only organisation specifically dedicated to restoring the Caledonian Forest, celebrated a major milestone as they planted the millionth tree of their project at Dundreggan Estate in Glen Moriston.
The giant dream of the diminutive Alan Watson Featherstone, truly a friend of the trees, to assist with the natural regeneration of the planet’s forests and wildlife began in 1991. “Our vision is to restore a wild forest, which is there for its own sake as a home for wildlife,” he says, “and to fulfil the ecological functions necessary for the wellbeing of the land itself.”
The award-winning Scottish charity, of which Alan is the founder and executive director, is supported by hundreds of volunteers who join Trees for Life annually in planting over 100,000 trees in protected areas as part of a conservation holiday.
Their work also includes restoration such as seed collection and propagation of young trees and rare woodland plants. With just one percent of Scotland’s Caledonian Forest surviving, Alan’s long-term goal encompasses an expansive 250-year vision for the return of wild forest to a target area of 600 square miles.
The restoration will provide for extensive tracts of majestic Scots pine interspersed with birch, rowan, juniper and aspen trees, recreating a natural environment where beaver, wild boar, lynx and wolf might roam again.
The day started with a trip to see the wild boar and check the moth traps to see which winged creatures visited during the night. Back at the Lodge the Woodland Orchestra provided the chance to make music with hand made instruments and Kristy Puplett from Wild Things! invited visitors to try their hands at mastering bush craft skills. There was also a guided walk by Dundreggan Site Manager, Allan Common.
While it has taken many centuries to reduce parts of the Scottish Highlands to their present barren and impoverished condition, elsewhere on the planet – and especially in the life-sustaining tropical rainforests – the accelerated degradation and species loss has happened in our lifetimes and mostly during the past three decades. Despite humanity’s appalling track record, Alan Featherstone’s optimism is undiminished.
“My deep-rooted sense of personal optimism for the future stems largely from my personal experience of having access to an unlimited source of inner power – the passion for what I really care about and believe in,” he says.
“I’ve found that I, like any individual, have the power to effect meaningful change in the world. By giving voice to the deepest feelings of my heart and finding ways to express those through practical and positive action, I’ve discovered previously unknown skills and abilities within myself, and that I can make a difference far beyond my immediate surroundings.”
There is something deeply appealing about trees. For me, trees – particularly large ones – have a splendour unmatched by other plants, raising my aspiration, ennobling one part of me, steadying another part, enriching my spirit. The trees say: become what you truly are – a loving creative being. Use that criterion in all your acts, choose to love what you do, love what you are, love one another.
“The endeavours of many people and organisations concerned about the future of the planet is embodied in new projects that are proactive and seek to implement a positive vision for how their proponents would like the world to be, instead of opposing what they don’t like.”
One such endeavour is What’s Your Tree?, a workshop created in 2006 by American activist Julia Butterfly Hill and a team of community organisers, leaders and educators. The programme is based on Julia’s insights from her two-year tree sit atop Luna, an over 1,000-year-old redwood tree in Northern California.
What’s Your Tree? activates each person’s leadership potential, fostering community action and social transformation and will be held at the Findhorn Foundation starting on 28th July 2012. It is a journey of creative discovery into spirit, through personal growth and self-exploration, community life and joyful action.
This is an example of new projects that Alan believes share a common feature, “They are expressions of an affirmative vision for the future, and are empowered by the passion and cares of the people who initiated them. Together they form part of the revitalisation of the earth. A sea change is underway in overall human consciousness and action. I believe that we each have our own unique contribution to make to this change.”
“Each tree has the potential to be a home and habitat for many other organisms, not just now,” says Alan, “but for a tree such as a Scots pine, for several hundred years into the future.”