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Yale Environment 360

Hi From the Highlands

No one alive has seen the habitat where these creatures held sway... But while no one has yet seen it, the vision of clawing back a bit of that Caledonian splendor is very much alive. Unlikely as it may seem, sheep-loving Scotland has become a hive of restorationist fervor.

Ecologically, the whole country is a kind of Culloden -- the moor where British troops slaughtered Highland clansmen in a brutal 1746 rout -- laid waste in an act of enforced national unity. Thus, beneath the superficially peaceful surface of Scotland simmers a longstanding discontent. "Who owns Scotland?" cries Rob McMorran, coordinator of a group of activists known as the Scottish Wild Land Group. Who Owns Scotland? reports that a mere 343 private individuals own half the country's 19 million acres.

Carrifran Wildwood, a project Philip Ashmole a biologist and expert in oceanic island ecosystems who taught at Yale for some years helped organize, takes one approach.

In stark contrast to this carefully considered, incremental project is another approach, one that has been wildly controversial. In 2003, Paul Lister -- English heir to a multi-million dollar furniture fortune -- bought Alladale, a 23,000 acre Highlands estate.