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Monday, May 20, 2024

Council Highlights Growing Number of Projects Aimed at Improving Biodiversity Across The Region

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Highland Council’s Environment and Amenities teams have been working to improve biodiversity across the region by embarking on an ambitious tree planting project.  

One element of the local authority’s response to the ecological and climate emergency, declared in 2019, involved an action for the teams to identify and implement biodiversity enhancements on council-owned land across Highland.  

During the 2023/24 winter planting season the Council’s Greenspace Officer has been managing a number of planting events across the region, and this has resulted in the planting of 2,700 trees.  

These include:  

  • Riverside Park, Nairn (22 fruit trees)  
  • Torvean Park, Inverness (240 native trees)  
  • Wellington Road Park, Wick (576 native hedgerow)  
  • Bignold Park, Wick (336 native trees)  
  • Road Operations Depot, Thurso (540 native trees)  
  • Merkinch Nature Reserve, Inverness (1000 native trees, 98 fruit trees for orchard creation, wildflower seed and invasive species removal plan) 

The species which have been planted include Alder, Silver Birch, Hazel, Rowan, Aspen, Pendunculate Oak, White Poplar, Cherry, Oak, Golden and Goat Willow, Beech, Apple, Plum, and Pear.  

The above examples are just part of the first phase of the planting project, with more plans already in place for the 24/25 winter planting season.  

As well as the success of the ongoing planting projects the Environment team has been working closely with the Amenities team on greenspace management practices and how these can be optimised to ensure set-aside areas are as nature friendly as possible.  

Chair of Highland Council’s Communities and Place Committee, Cllr Graham MacKenzie, said:

“I am delighted to hear about the amazing progress being made by these teams, and it is so heartening to see the growth of biodiversity-positive initiatives like the tree planting project.  

“It is also encouraging to hear about the team’s collaborative discussions with the Amenities team on how best to manage Council-owned land for the promotion of wildlife and flora.”  

The teams are working on a host of other biodiversity initiatives, which it hopes will lead to the creation of a Highland Nature Network.  

Environment Team Leader, Andrew Puls, said:

“Ultimately we would like to create a network of biodiverse greenspace sites which will provide nature steppingstones and connections through our towns and villages, to the more rural, biodiverse land.”  

NatureScot’s Chief Executive, Francesca Osowska said:

“Nature loss and climate change are two of the biggest threats facing Scotland, so it is vital we work to restore nature at scale and at pace across the country.  

“Highland Council’s tree planting projects are an important contribution to this national effort, and we congratulate the teams who have undertaken this valuable work.”  

She added:

“We very much support the ambition of a Highland Nature Network, which would bring many benefits for people and wildlife across the region.” 

Last week the Amenities Team saw encouraging evidence of nature flourishing around the banks of the River Ness in Inverness City Centre.

They were made aware of the presence of otters along the riverbank.

The team has been focusing its re-wilding efforts along those riverbanks, allowing grass and wildflowers to grow freely. 

The Council increased the areas of ‘set aside’ by 92,247m2 in the 2022 season and by a further 150,194m2 in 2023. 

This will continue into 2024 as they have worked with other departments such as Housing and Education to identify further sites for reducing grass cutting and enhancing biodiversity.  

Further information about the work of the team and the projects it is managing will be available soon within a dedicated section of the Highland Council’s website.  

Members of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee will next week be asked to approve the publication of the Council’s Biodiversity Duty Report for 2021-23 on the local authority’s website.

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