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Nature recovery in Scotland

Scottish rewilding company hires star nature-science team as it shoots for a mass influx of ‘citizen rewilder' co-owners
Wild stag, Scottish highlands

Highlands Rewilding, owner of 682 hectares dedicated to nature recovery in Inverness-shire and Aberdeenshire, has hired three world-class scientists to lead the management and counting of the carbon it aims to sequester and the biodiversity it aims to increase as a way to fight climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse. 
 
At the same time the 50 current co-owners of the company are preparing to expand ownership by adding what they hope will be hundreds of retail investors in a fundraising campaign to run for three months from December 2022 through to February 2023. 

‘In the first two years of this project, we have made a good start in rewilding science, land management for nature recovery, and community involvement. By ramping up all these in our third year, we are aiming for a meaningful contribution to the Scottish Government’s effort to hit its ambitious climate and biodiversity targets, while also helping with the dire land inequality problem in Scotland.’

DR JEREMY LEGGETT
Highlands Rewilding founder, veteran climate campaigner and green social entrepreneur

The team

Newly appointed co-chief scientists Dr Penelope Whitehorn and Dr Calum Brown earned their PhDs at Scottish universities, have long experience of Highland ecology and have between them authored or co-authored 90 peer-reviewed scientific papers.
 
Also joining the team is chief data scientist Cathy Atkinson, who has led data gathering and processing projects for several ministries in the UK civil service, for which she was awarded an OBE for her services to data science.

They will be supported by a team of 17, many of them trained ecologists and all but three from or resident in the Highlands.

Co-owned rewilding

 
Highlands Rewilding aims to scale nature recovery and community prosperity in two ways: by acquiring further land for rewilding and by using its scientific and data firepower to help other landowners profit from new nature-recovery land-management practices. To fund this scaling, it will be seeking capital from three sources, in parallel.
 

The first is equity from impact investors beyond its 50 founding funders. Most of the 50 are rewilding enthusiasts, but one is a financial institution, MFS Investment Management, and the company hopes other institutions will join in at this second stage.
 
The second is equity from citizen rewilders investing via a crowdfunding platform to be operated by Edinburgh firm ShareIn. The minimum investment will be the smallest currently possible, £50, and though outreach will be international, it will be targeted at Scots, hoping to inject as much co-ownership of Highlands Rewilding as possible in Highland communities. 
 
The third is debt. Banks have yet to lend to commercial rewilding companies.

Nature recovery education

 
The company will shoot for ethical levels of profitability, and so useful returns to its investor owners, via multiple revenue streams. These will include natural-capital uplift income, natural-capital monitoring and data services to other landowners, residential courses for corporate and other groups seeking to experience and learn about the frontier of the new nature-recovery-based economy, regenerative agriculture, eco-tourism, eco-building including affordable homes and possibly green energy.
 
Top universities are partnering in the research Highlands Rewilding will undertake, in particular Edinburgh University, where several departments are involved, and Oxford University, where multiple departments are collaborating in a 10-year programme managed by the new Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery.

Highland governance

 
Governance of Highlands Rewilding is cemented in the Highlands: four of the six directors are either resident in or have lived and/or worked in the region. Two directors, Dr Carol Langston and Dr Hannah Rudman, are faculty members at Scotland’s Rural College, SRUC.

Neil Sutherland, founder of the Inverness firm MAKAR, is one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the Highlands. Kirsty Mackay, Head of Operations at Highlands Rewilding and the elected staff representative on the board, comes from a crofting family.

The other directors are Archie Fraser, former long-term head of corporate finance at Solarcentury, who comes from a Highland family, and Jeremy Leggett, who will serve as chair.

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