This is Eigg…

Making Local Woods Work (MLWW) is working with 11 groups and enterprises across Scotland, helping to develop and implement their plans for using local forest resources to benefit the local community. One of these is the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust (IEHT) and here Chris Marsh of Community Woodlands Association tells us about their goals and his work with them.

“The Isle of Eigg lies off the west coast of Scotland – just over an hour’s ferry ride from the fishing port of Mallaig. 20 years ago the population of this ‘off grid’ island was just 65 residents. However since the establishment of the IEHT, a partnership between the community, local authority and Scottish Wildlife Trust, much has been achieved:

  • Renovating and building properties
  • Establishing a wind
  • Sun and hydro-powered electricity grid
  • Improving and restoring natural habitat
  • Planting a community orchard
  • Creating a range of new business opportunities

The community is now thriving with almost 100 souls now calling the island ‘home’.

IEHT joined the MLWW project to develop value-added timber markets on the island. Of the 2966-hectare island, 366 hectares are woodland including fragments of hazel and birch-rich coastal native woodland, old and neglected ‘policy’ woodlands of primarily elm and sycamore and a maturing conifer plantation.

The Community Woodlands Association is orchestrating support for the IEHT. As a first step, we are helping the islanders in plans to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the conifers. Forestry advice to quantify this softwood resource and investigate the viability and practicalities of exporting surplus timber are being combined with advice on the establishment of a new woodfuel enterprise.

Early engagement has furnished IEHT with enough information and impetus to put together a £130k bid for Scottish Government Climate Challenge Funding. This is allowing them to provide a home energy advisory service and promote (locally-sourced) woodfuel in new and renewed heating systems. This will reduce the dependency on fossil fuels, sustain seasonal forest employment and utilise the otherwise non-profitable softwood timber ‘crop’. MLWW is continuing to help in the design and establishment of the new woodfuel ‘supply chain’ – guiding decision-making on appropriately-scaled plantation felling and extraction through to defining on-island processing, storage, seasoning and distribution choices.

Once underway, there’s the old ‘policy woods’ which feature lots of interesting windblown and over-mature broadleaves.  This should yield interesting and valuable structural and craftwood timbers.”

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