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Black Isle animal rescue charity founder brands tree felling plans ‘very distressing’

By Niall Harkiss

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Iona Nicol of Munlochy Animal Aid says the proposed felling of woodland directly behind their home and the centre is "very distressing". Picture: Iona Nicol
Iona Nicol of Munlochy Animal Aid says the proposed felling of woodland directly behind their home and the centre is "very distressing". Picture: Iona Nicol

Forestry plans to fell trees behind an animal rescue centre on the Black Isle have been branded “very distressing” by the charity’s founder.

Iona Nicol of Munlochy Animal Aid, who provide care for sick animals before finding them new homes, say the plans could have a “devastating” impact on woodland nature habitats and neighbouring paths.


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Concerns are now being raised that cutting trees down could disturb nesting birds and red squirrels, while also putting protected species inhabiting the woodland at risk, such as rare butterflies and badgers.

The planned felling at Kessock forms part of ten year Land Management Plan, which outlines Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS)’s plans for various recreational resources until the year 2029.

A statement from Munlochy Animal Aid on Facebook highlighted the area as a “a small but important area” for the whole community, noting that “many people” also use the area for dog walking.

Munlochy Animal Aid founder Iona Nicol said: “The proposed felling of woodland directly behind both our home and the centre is very distressing, not least because of the wildlife that we know live there.

“We have four feeding stations for squirrels and this is used all year round and is of great interest to our visitors. We use the woods both for the kennel dogs and our own pets and there are a good number of local people also enjoy walking here.

“We have disabled walkers, families and elderly folk who regularly walk there with the rescue dogs from the kennels and take great from there time walking in the calm peaceful environment.

“The road adjacent to the kennels is a busy and fast stretch and our walkers feel so much safer in the wooded area.”

The charity is now appealing on social media for members of the community to contact Forestry and Land Scotland with their concerns.

One Facebook user, Jo Fitzsimmons, said: “The amount of wildlife, insects, toads, small mammals, not to mention plant life etc that will have made a home in those logs will be massive. We are supposed to be protecting these species.”

Another commented: “I thought we were meant to be protecting red squirrels, not destroying their habitat.”

“Forestry and Land Scotland has responded by stating that “pre-operational surveys” will be in place to check for activity of neighbouring wildlife so that adjustments can be made and “appropriate mitigations” can be put in place.”

A spokesperson for Forestry and Land Scotland said: “We appreciate that communities feel a close connection with their local woodlands.

“However, as well as being a recreational resource, we manage many of our forests sustainably in order to enhance landscapes, habitats and to produce timber; our management aims are covered in an approved Land Management Plan (LMP) covering the Black Isle.

“We consulted widely for the Black Isle LMP. This included signs in the forest with contact details and inviting input, multiple advertised public meetings, and engagement with the community councils and wider stakeholder groups.

“Felling isn’t planned until much later in the year but pre-operational surveys check for the presence of any nesting birds, badger, squirrel or other protected species’ activity, so that we can make any necessary adjustments to our plans and put any required and appropriate mitigations in place.

“Research also shows that squirrels move to a quieter part of the forest while operations take place, returning once the felling has been completed.

“Public safety is always paramount so access will temporarily be restricted to some areas of the forest, although other areas will remain open.

“The work we are doing will help improve the biodiversity, resilience and recreational appeal of the forests in the longer-term.”

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