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
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