Wild about Rewilding!

Alan Robertson

Rewilding charity Trees for Life has finished a landmark three-year skills development project to help 15 people from diverse backgrounds pursue a career in rewilding. 

With more than 1,000 people registering their interest to take part in the ‘Skills for Rewilding’ programme across its three-year run, the pioneering project has revealed a significant demand among Scots to find practical ways to help nature and the climate. 

Skills for Rewilding welcomed five people each year to the Trees for Life Dundreggan rewilding estate in Glenmoriston, west of Loch Ness, where they spent 12 months carrying out hands-on rewilding activities, mentored by Trees for Life experts.

Different traineeships included tree nursery horticulture, deer management, conservation, landscape planning, digital marketing, and community engagement. 

To attract a more diverse range of applicants, including those under-represented in the nature restoration field, the project – funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – provided each trainee with a bursary and on-site accommodation at Dundreggan.

Trees for Life recruited a mix of local young people, women wanting to work in traditionally male-dominated roles, and those looking for a career change. 

Paul Greaves from Trees for Life, who managed the project, said: “For each year of Skills for Rewilding, we received hundreds of applications. Participants came from a range of backgrounds and previous jobs, including hospitality, retail and construction.

“It’s clear that there is a growing public appetite to help nature in Scotland. Nationally, we need more investment in skills development to harness this potential workforce, which will benefit communities, biodiversity and the climate.”

This year’s digital marketing trainee, Alice Mellon, has secured a permanent position with the RSPB as a Project Officer on the conservation charity’s Giving Nature a Home initiative in Glasgow. 

Alice said: “For many people, the way to get into conservation is through volunteering. The opportunity to live and work at Dundreggan for a whole year was unique. As well as learning from Trees for Life staff, I studied for an SVQ qualification and spent a couple of weeks on placement, at a community garden and off-grid education centre.  

“I’m originally from Glasgow, so I’m delighted to be going home to take up a career in urban rewilding. I’m passionate about bringing people in cities closer to nature.”

Heather McGowan from Inverness worked in a city-centre bar before undertaking the tree nursery horticulture traineeship this year. She is going to keep working at the Trees for Life nursery at Dundreggan, which grows tens of thousands of native trees each year. 

Heather said: “Skills for Rewilding has really changed my career trajectory. Working at Trees for Life has opened up a whole new world to me. When I go out into the local landscape, I’m more clued up on native trees, plants and wildlife. I want to keep working in horticulture and be part of the change that’s happening in Scotland to help revive its lost biodiversity.”

Trees for Life has been rewilding Dundreggan estate in Glenmoriston since 2008, growing native trees from seed and planting new forests. In spring 2023, the world’s first Rewilding Centre will open at the acclaimed site, making rewilding and its many benefits accessible to many more people. For more information, visit treesforlife.org.uk.

A film about the Skills for Rewilding project can be viewed at Trees for Life