The hills echo to the howl of wolf­packs, bears lum­ber through the glens – and thou­sands of deer are shot on sight. Wel­come to the 200-year vi­sion of our largest landowner

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Kirsten John­son

OVER the past 12 years he has spent mil­lions of pounds buy­ing up vast swathes of the High­lands.

Now the Dan­ish bil­lion­aire who has be­come Scot­land’s largest landowner has fi­nally of­fered an in­sight into his rea­sons for plough­ing his for­tune into the coun­try’s wilder­ness.

An­ders Povlsen has re­vealed a grandiose ‘200-year vi­sion’ to ‘rewild’ his adopted home­land’s ‘most vul­ner­a­ble, pre­cious and mys­te­ri­ously beau­ti­ful land­scapes’.

In a heart­felt open let­ter to the peo­ple of Scot­land, the 46year-old re­tail mogul has writ­ten of his dream of ‘restor­ing the High­lands to their for­mer mag­nif­i­cent nat­u­ral state and re­pair­ing the harm that man has in­flicted on them’.

He rails against the ‘ugly and un­nat­u­ral’ com­mer­cial forests planted across the coun­try – and ad­vo­cates a wide­spread cull of deer.

De­scrib­ing him­self as a ‘cus­to­dian of the land’, his mas­ter­plan in­cludes the rein­tro­duc­tion of Cale­do­nian pine forests.

He hints at one day bring­ing back wild an­i­mals and birds long ab­sent from the UK, such as cranes, storks, beavers, bears, lynx and even wolves.

Den­mark’s rich­est man also hopes en­dan­gered an­i­mals – such as the red squir­rel, pine marten, Scot­tish wild­cat, ca­per­cail­lie and black grouse – will thrive again as new wood­lands across his es­tates be­gin to con­nect.

In ad­di­tion, he wants to use his land to ed­u­cate chil­dren about the im­por­tance of con­ser­va­tion and ‘re­store long-derelict prop­er­ties in in­no­va­tive and al­ways stylish ways’ to make the land­scapes ‘ac­ces­si­ble to ever greater num­bers of vis­i­tors’.

Mr Povlsen said his love af­fair with Scot­land be­gan in the 1980s dur­ing a fam­ily hol­i­day to the High­lands, where he spent a sum­mer fly fish­ing with his younger brother, Niels. The Best­seller cloth­ing CEO be­gan build­ing his prop­erty port­fo­lio in 2006 with the £7.9 mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Glen­feshie, a 42,000-acre patch of the Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park.

Two years later he spent £15.5 mil­lion buy­ing the 23,000-acre Braeroy es­tate near Fort Wil­liam, nearby Tul­loch es­tate and Lyn­aber­ack in the Cairn­gorms, all in In­ver­ness-shire. Four es­tates were added be­tween 2011 and 2015, and an­other three in 2016.

Last month it was an­nounced he had bought the 1,100-acre Kin­rara es­tate near Aviemore. His pur­chase of 12 es­tates cov­er­ing more than 220,000 acres means he has over­taken the Duke of Buc­cleuch to be­come Scot­land’s largest pri­vate landowner.

Along­side his wife Anne, 40, whom he met when she be­gan work­ing in sales for Best­seller, the fa­ther of four founded the Wild­land project, which he de­scribes as a ‘ve­hi­cle for tak­ing

‘Wild­land is look­ing far into the fu­ture’

for­ward the con­ser­va­tion, pro­tec­tion and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of some of Scot­land’s most rugged, pre­cious and beau­ti­ful land­scapes’.

Now Wild­land has pub­lished a man­i­festo on its web­site, promis­ing to pro­tect ‘Great Bri­tain’s last true wilder­ness’.

Mr Povlsen states: ‘From our home at Glen­feshie [by Kin­gussie, In­ver­nessshire], both Anne and my­self – our chil­dren and our par­ents, too – have long en­joyed a deep con­nec­tion with this

mag­nif­i­cent land­scape. This love of the Scot­land High­lands has man­i­fested it­self with ever-greater in­volve­ment over the years. We have also grown to ap­pre­ci­ate the breadth of is­sues and op­por­tu­nity that we, to­gether with our grow­ing team, are now re­spon­si­ble for.’

The man­i­festo con­tin­ues: ‘All across north­ern Scot­land, where some of Eu­rope’s last nat­u­ral habi­tats cling on, Wild­land is look­ing far into the fu­ture and forg­ing gen­uinely epic land­scape-scale con­ser­va­tion projects. ‘Peo­ple and place, com­mu­nity, op­por­tu­nity and en­trepreneur­ship go hand in hand with our vi­sion for the restora­tion and re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of this iconic port­fo­lio.

‘The lan­guage of Wild­land’s longterm vi­sion is con­ser­va­tion, restora­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ... Whilst progress can some­times seem glacial, each year that passes en­sures that more and more of the big pic­ture be­gins to re­veal it­self.

‘It’s noth­ing less than a priv­i­lege to be guardian of such an op­por­tu­nity. It’s not com­pli­cated, it’s not a bur­den. It is what we are hon­oured and hum­bled to be able to in­vest to­wards.’

It adds: ‘The Wild­land project has es­tab­lished the foun­da­tions of a 200-year vi­sion. Our big open spaces are dis­ap­pear­ing at an alarm­ing rate. At Wild­land, we be­lieve in giv­ing na­ture a chance to fight back.’

A pro­posal that will split opin­ion is the large-scale culling of deer.

Mr Povlsen states: ‘It’s a sim­ple fact that many es­tates across the High­lands have pop­u­la­tions of deer far be­yond that which the ecosys­tem can sup­port.

‘On land where our deer man­age­ment is in hand, the re­gen­er­a­tion of habi­tat and wood­land has been noth­ing short of re­mark­able. The heart soars when the re­birth of these lands sees wildlife re­turn.’

He sug­gests other an­i­mals may take their place, ex­plain­ing: ‘Na­ture is mirac­u­lous in its abil­ity to re­cover as soon as ar­ti­fi­cially high num­bers of large her­bi­vores are re­duced.

‘Per­haps one day, this process of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion will be such that an­i­mals long ab­sent from these lands – the lynx, the bear and wolves for ex­am­ple – will be able to re­turn. While we will only sup­port this if ways can be found for such species to co­ex­ist har­mo­niously with ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, ex­cit­ing things are al­ready hap­pen­ing.’

He adds: ‘En­dan­gered an­i­mals – such as the red squir­rel, pine marten, the iconic Scot­tish wild­cat, ca­per­cail­lie and black grouse – should thrive again and, as new wood­lands across the es­tates con­nect, path­ways are cre­ated for ani- mals to breed … and the cy­cle be­gins afresh.’ Mr Povlsen hopes to re­place ‘com­mer­cial conifers’ with young birch, larch, alder, ju­niper and Cale­do­nian pine.

He writes: ‘To many, parts of the High­lands may look thick with ver­dant for­est; yet these vast swathes of com­mer­cial conifers are mono­cul­tures: acre af­ter acre and row af­ter row of trees planted by man. …of­ten ugly and un­nat­u­ral.

‘We try to cre­ate a cred­i­ble edge that serves to break up these plant­ings and also en­cour­age new, more var­ied wood­land to en­rich what is within; and, in time, re­place it.

‘Wild­land has planted over two mil­lion trees across its es­tates, along­side thou­sands of acres of nat­u­ral wood­land re­gen­er­a­tion.

‘The root sys­tems of these young trees soon be­gin to bind the land and re­duce ero­sion, sus­tain a more nat­u­ral river course, at­tract in­sects and pro­vide shel­ter for a far more di­verse mix of wildlife.’

He ends his let­ter by stat­ing: ‘All in all, we are work­ing to­wards an en­tirely sus­tain­able model, a project that can en­dure be­yond what Anne and my­self can ever ex­pect to see in our own life­time.’

‘Na­ture is mirac­u­lous in its abil­ity to re­cover’

HIGH­LAND MAS­TER­PLAN: Dan­ish ty­coon An­ders Povlsen and wife Anne

AN­I­MAL HARM: Mr Povlsen sug­gests that a wide­spread cull of deer to help re­gen­er­ate the High­lands could lead to the rein­tro­duc­tion of long-lost preda­tors

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