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A hiilside above Loch Eck being colonised by Sitka spruce. Photo James Fenton

a revisionist view that all our ‘native’ trees are invaders, colonisers of a postglacial desert, and that under the ‘man as animal’ rules of the Anthropocene era, there are no aliens, just migrants. I have recently heard a spirited defence of the Norway spruce as good red squirrel habitat, and of any trees in the ‘green desert’ wilds being an ecological good thing, this by a Mountain Bothies Association key worker no less. There is even a politically-correct hint of antiimmigration and ‘ethnic cleansing’ mindsets being censured³. More sophisticated arguments are needed if defenders of open uplands and stark corries (stippled by delicate birches and rowans where fitting) are to preserve their landscape inheritance. And here is another problem. A prime reason for this alien conifer spread is reduction in grazing –


removal of sheep, deer culling, or wholesale exclosure zones – often with encouragement of native woodland regeneration in mind. This can be seen to dramatic effect in Glen Feshie, where the Caledonian pine forest is resurgent. But the Law of Unintended Consequences means that alien conifers prosper even more readily from these well-intentioned measures⁴. The moral is that sustainable levels of grazing should be restored as soon as native regeneration is secure (or commercial plantations can be reopened), with sanitation clearance of aliens at that point. The sophisticated argumentation might thus embrace: �� Ecological factors, where alien conifer cover suppresses valued species or habitats �� Access and recreation, where the freedom to roam the heights and

Profile for Scottish Wild Land Group

Summer 2019 issue of the Scottish Wild Land Group's magazine, Wild Land News.  

Summer 2019 issue of the Scottish Wild Land Group's magazine, Wild Land News.  

Profile for swlg