Alan Watson Featherstone interview: The rewilding champion with ambitious plan for Scotland

A champion of rewilding, Mr Featherstone wants to restore Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest and its constituent flora and fauna

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The Independent Online

Alan Watson Featherstone has served as the executive director of the conservation charity Trees for Life since he founded the organisation in 1986.

A champion of rewilding – a strand of conservation aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes by reintroducing native species – Mr Featherstone wants to restore Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest and its constituent flora and fauna.

At the start of the year, he laid bare an ambitious plan to bring back animals such as beavers and boar to the Highlands.

With the arrival of autumn the conservationist remains resolute that the Government must reintroduce beavers to the wild – and he believes that he has made progress toward achieving his goal.

In June Mr Featherstone met Scotland’s Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, to make the case for the animals.

“The beaver is a keystone species in aquatic ecosystems,” said Mr Featherstone.

“They may not be there in high numbers but there is a disproportionately beneficial effect because of their presence.”

“By making small dams, they smooth out the peaks and troughs of floods and droughts and help prevent downstream flooding.

“Since 1920, 15 countries have reintroduced beavers – Britain is lagging 95 years behind,” he added.

Dr McLeod was assessing his report, he added, and he remained hopeful that he would win her over.

A new campaign group, Rewilding Britain, launched in July, wants at least one million hectares of Britain’s land and 30 per cent of its territorial waters to support natural ecological processes and key species.

“I think the Scottish and Westminster governments could do a lot more,” Mr Featherstone said.

“The Westminster government is promoting fracking and nuclear power and badger culls. I don’t hold out hope for radical moves from it.”

However, he said, he felt “more hopeful” about the Scottish Government taking action.