The Sunart Oakwoods Initiative (SOI) is a major and developing project, which aims to restore and expand the native woodlands of the wider Sunart area, to bring local conservation, economic and amenity benefits. It involves a number of partner agencies and the local communities and covers an area extending West from the A830 encompassing Moidart, Ardgour, Morvern, and Ardnamurchan. While this area is not extensively covered in native woodland the project aims to increase the range of woodland in this area, improve the conservation value of the area and ensure that the rural development benefits arising from the woodlands and other habitats are dispersed throughout.

In a core area extending from Strontian west to Glenborrodale and south into Morvern, significant progress has been made and good working relationships have been established between the public and private sectors. The Sunart Oakwoods Initiative is considered unique in that it can truly demonstrate sustainable development in action with natural, cultural and economic interests being progressed in tandem. Raising awareness of the natural and cultural heritage of the area among both local people and visitors has been a key theme of the initiative. Another strength of the project to date lies in its inclusive approach to community involvement and partnership working which has been pivotal in its success.

After a period of several years of organic growth since its beginnings in 1996, there was a desire in 2004 to consider the future of the Sunart Oakwoods Initiative in a more planned way. This involved looking at all aspects of the Initiative’s work, management structure, and future funding. Therefore a Strategy was developed to:

Summarise the scope and ambitions of the Initiative
Provide a framework for action, and
Set out the most pressing priorities over the next 10-15 years

It should be recognized that this was the picture as of Summer 2004 and the Strategy will evolve over time to meet changing community priorities and shifting external influences (e.g. changes in policy, public perceptions of leisure/holiday expectations and public funding opportunities).

The Strategy was developed over a period of six months and incorporated the outcomes of interviews with the SOI partners and other interested parties, a series of workshops and other meetings involving the Sunart Oakwoods Steering Group and other interested parties, and community consultation through a roadshow. During this period a high level of positive reinforcement was achieved for the key principles of the project. There was also considerable consensus on the priorities for action.

Five key aims were identified for the Sunart Oakwoods Initiative, each of these links to an aspect of the Steering Group’s work, further details of each can be found via the menu drop-downs.