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Climate change pioneer and Beldorney Estate owner to launch 'citizen rewilding' crowdfunder

By Lorna Thompson

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A FORMER Greenpeace scientific director is to launch a crowdfunder for people to own shares in rewilding land including on his estate near Huntly.

Dr Jeremy Leggett, climate change pioneer, writer and social entrepreneur, bought the 349-hectare Beldorney Estate, on the banks of the River Deveron, in June.

There his team plans to expand nature recovery efforts already under way at Bunloit Estate, near Loch Ness, which Mr Leggett bought last year.

The aim of the Bunloit Rewilding Project is to enable nature recovery and community prosperity through rewilding, as well as re-people areas through the creation of green jobs and eco-tourism.

Mr Leggett's project now plans to launch a "citizen rewilding" crowdfunder, in the run-up to the UN Climate Change summit (COP26) in Glasgow this autumn, to enable people to own shares in rewilding land in Scotland via a new mass ownership company, Highlands Rewilding Ltd.

The team aims to expand its "Bunloit model" at Beldorney as well as on other appropriate land sites across the north.

A project spokesperson said: "To scale this impact, address the inequalities of land ownership in Scotland, and make rewilding accessible to all, Highlands Rewilding is planning a crowdfunding campaign, enabling anyone to own shares in rewilding land in Scotland.

"Hopefully this is an attractive option for local and regional individuals and communities.

"Ownership of and nature-based solutions business on Beldorney Estate will be the first step for Highlands Rewilding."

The 349-hectare Beldorney Estate, near Huntly, was bought by climate campaigner Dr Jeremy Leggett this summer.
The 349-hectare Beldorney Estate, near Huntly, was bought by climate campaigner Dr Jeremy Leggett this summer.

Mr Leggett founded Solarcentury in 1998, one of the world’s most respected solar energy companies. He went on to establish SolarAid in 2006, a global charity set up with a levy on Solarcentury profits.

Mr Leggett said: "Tackling climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse requires the full fighting involvement of communities if it is to have any chance of success.

"I hope this people-power company, marrying as it will capital across the full spectrum of investors who are rewilding enthusiasts, will prove as transformative as some of the companies I was privileged to see rise and prosper during the solar revolution."

Climate campaigner Dr Jeremy Leggett.
Climate campaigner Dr Jeremy Leggett.

In July the team announced plans, in partnership with Climate Action, to create "a lasting legacy of COP26" with a Forest of Hope at Beldorney.

The forest will extend from a broadleaf riparian woodland, down the valley into neighbouring land.

Beldorney, an area under-populated since the First World War, is seen as well suited for re-peopling, and building back better post-Covid.

The project team say a section surrounded by native broadleaf woodlands at the 16th-century Beldorney Castle, about two miles south of Glass, is teeming with life and offers a glimpse into what the rest of the estate could look like in 100 years’ time.

They hope to inspire other landowners to create a network of carbon negative, flourishing and biodiverse estates in Scotland and beyond.

It is planned to launch the campaign on the Seedrs crowdfunding platform before the COP26 summit, which will be held between October 31 to November 12.

Visit the website www.highlandsrewilding.co.uk/ for more information.

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